My Friend Dahmer is probably the scariest non-horror film you’ll see all year. It’s the story of Jeffrey before Dahmer, and it weaves a stunning cautionary tale of a youth in peril.
I had the chance to see My Friend Dahmer as part of this year’s Toronto After Dark lineup, so naturally I jumped at the chance. We’ve been eagerly anticipating this film for quite some time here at iHorror, and it certainly did not disappoint.
A friend of mine has a theory that whenever a scene in shown in a school classroom, the topic of the lesson acts as a general theme or thesis of the film. Director/writer Marc Meyers includes such a scene in a history class, where the teacher pointedly asks “why is history so important?”.
He calls on young Jeffrey Dahmer who avoids the question by what is later referred to as “doing a Dahmer” – a class clown act of putting on a voice or making disruptive noises. His classmates respond with laughter, and the camera focuses on Jeffrey’s surprised, secret smile as he discovers the rare approval of his peers.
The teacher continues on to explain that history is important because we will never truly know ourselves until we study our past. This, truly, is the point of the film. To study Dahmer as he was, the person behind the monster, and the painfully present signs that hid in plain sight.
Jeffrey’s bouts of disruption gain him a group of friends who revel in his oddity, but their relationship quickly grows stale. Like they’ve adopted a pet that grew too fast, or chewed on the furniture a bit too much. Jeffrey’s actions in the film are that of a troubled teen screaming for help, but he is simply pushed further into isolation.
You’re shown a side of teenage vulnerability that makes you begin to empathize with Jeffrey, but there’s still the constant reminders of the darkness that was always there and the terror of what he will become.
Former Disney star Ross Lynch knocks it out of the park with his performance as the titular Dahmer. His dead-eyed expression, hunched shoulders, and stiff shuffle convey the guarded physicality of a young man who struggles with his own existence.
My Friend Dahmer is a well-balanced meal; there are side portions of humor and horror that compliment the bloody, meaty steak of the character’s future. It will remind you of a story you’ve seen before – the potential danger in a troubled teen – but with a harrowing reality you can’t avoid.
Featured image via Rise Film