Plot: What’s it about?
In the apartment of a quiet, calm, and seemingly normal man, over a dozen men were drugged, killed, dismembered, and in some cases, even eaten. But the man who was behind these crimes wasn’t a monster in the traditional sense, he looked normal, he had a normal job, and outside of these horrific murders, he never caused any trouble. The man was Jeffrey Dahmer (Jeremy Renner) and his string of murders had the nation’s attention until he was murdered in prison, by a band of fellow inmates. Even after his death however, Dahmer remains entrenched in the American culture, as people ask how he became a killer and how future Dahmers could be stopped. In Dahmer, he stalks gay clubs, drugs his victims, and then sleeps them in hotel rooms, all the while battling his inner conflict over his own homosexual urges, the very element which many people believe drove him to his horrendous deeds. After he secures a victim within his own apartment, he begins to experiment on them, as he tries to create a zombie of sorts, someone who will fulfill all of his sexual needs and never, ever leave his side. When his plan fails, Dahmer continues his lethal ways and adds to his collection of body parts, but sooner or later, he is bound to make a mistake, lead the police to his apartment, and have the horrible truth revealed…
As this film is about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, you might expect it to play like a slasher movie of sorts, but that’s not the approach taken here. Instead of a blood soaked exploitation picture, Dahmer proves to be a well crafted, effective psychological thriller of sorts, though of course, we already know the ultimate outcome. The movie focuses on Dahmer’s mental state, the journey from the sane side of his life to this violent, horrific side, which means some of the material had to be fictionalized, of course. If you’ve read any books about Dahmer, you’ll know the way he is played here hits close to the mark and while no one knows for sure the inner workings of the man’s mind, I think this movie makes a solid, believable effort. Dahmer does have a few scenes of violence, as any film about a serial killer has to, but the gore is underplayed in exchange for atmosphere, a wise trade in this case. I do think a blood soaked picture about Dahmer’s reign of terror would make for an interesting project, his psychological profile is also very interesting and when shown here, enhances the eerie texture of the movie. But it does move kind of slow at times and without the bloodshed, some serial killer devotees might be turned off, without a doubt. I think Dahmer is a well made movie however, more than recommended to those interested in the story of Milwaukee’s madman or those who want a look inside the mind of a serial killer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jeremy Renner at first in this role, but by the end of the first sequence, I knew he was the right choice. He doesn’t have the exact body or face of Dahmer, but he comes close in some costumes and looks enough like him to make the role work, but the look is just the foundation of his performance. Renner is so believable as Dahmer, it is almost spooky at times and that is just what this movie needed, as the central character offers so much mental depth and screen potential. I was pleased to find that Renner doesn’t overplay the part too, so Dahmer comes off as insane, but not in an overly dramatic fashion. In other words, he plays Dahmer much like the real killer presented himself, calm, collected, and almost normal most of the time, but totally insane and sadistic at the same time. Renner should be able to push this excellent turn into more work and he deserves it, no doubt about it. Other films with Renner include Senior Trip, Monkey Love, Paper Dragons, and Fish in a Barrel. The cast also includes Bruce Davison (High Crimes, X-Men), Matt Newton (National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Shallow End), and Dion Basco (Naked Brown Men, Love & Basketball).
Video: How does it look?
Dahmer is presented in a full frame transfer. I am unsure of the intended aspect ratio, but I saw no pan & scan here and the framing seems good, though I am sure the film was projected in widescreen at some point. In any event, the image here is very good and much better than expected, to be sure. The picture is sharp and quite refined, which is impressive given the low budget, low profile nature of the movie itself. The colors have been tinkered with by the filmmakers in some scenes, but I think the hues come off as intended, which is what matters. The contrast is rich and never obscures detail, thanks to some well balanced black levels. All in all, this looks great and surpassed my expectations in every respect.
Audio: How does it sound?
I found no real problems with the audio here, but keep in mind, this is a rather subdued, quiet movie and as such, the audio is by no means memorable. The dialogue is clean and never hard to understand, which is good, since vocals dominate this soundtrack, which is how a movie of this kind should be, I think. The various pieces of music also come across well, while sound effects remain acceptable, but never dynamic or even that impressive. Even so, the needs of the material are well covered and there’s not much else we could ask here. This disc also includes Spanish subtitles, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary with director David Jacobson and star Jeremy Renner highlights this disc, as the session is brisk, but still informative. The tone is much lighter than you’d expect for this kind of movie, but the two remain tactful and discuss the production, the material, and what it was like to work on a serial killer movie. This disc also includes a brief behind the scenes featurette, as well as the film’s trailer.