Hey folks, Harry here... I've been hearing a lot about this film for a while now. It seems that it really does get to people in a way that other serial killer biopics haven't. Check out what Capone here has to say... you'll get what I'm talking about...
Hey, Harry. Capone in Chicago here, fresh from my weekend appearance with the creator of ROAD TO PERDITION, Max Allan Collins. As the author is many a novel set in and around Chicago, Max was definitely in his element in front of a large ground of Chicago-area fans. In addition to loading me up with signed copies of the ROAD TO PERDITION graphic novel and novelization, as well as a copy of his latest detective novel, “Chicago Confidential,” Max was kind enough to call on me to talk for a few minutes about how much I admired the film. I’m seeing another screening of it next week and am very excited to do so. To me, the film ranks as one of the great crime films of all time, and certainly rests comfortably as the finest one set in this fine city. But I’m here today to talk about a very different kind of crime film and a very different kind of criminal than the one portrayed by Tom Hanks in PERDITION. Let me tell you about a little film called DAHMER...
Filmmaker David Jacobson has done something bordering on remarkable. He’s given us a film about one the most notorious serial killers in history and gone almost out of his way to not focus on the killings themselves. Jacobson’s Jeffrey Dahmer (played with such authenticity by “Angel’s” Jeremy Renner) is the antithesis of a Hollywood-drawn serial killer. Dahmer is written as quiet, non-threatening, partly charming, intelligent, lonely, and desperate for stimulation is a unsatisfying life. What we don’t find out about Dahmer is almost as important and intriguing as what we do. First and foremost, Jacobson does not try to spell out the factors that lead to Dahmer’s murderous streak that resulted in the deaths and mutilations of 17 men.
In fact, the events in Dahmer are edited in a way that we can’t tell where we are in his life. In one scene, Dahmer’s father (nicely played by Bruce Davison) is humiliating him for owning gay porno; immediately after that Jeff is seducing a local high school wrestler with pot and beer; then we cut to Dahmer performing strange rituals with the barely breathing (perhaps, in certain scenes, not breathing at all) body of a young Asian man he’s seduced and drugged ; finally to a scene of a raging, screaming Dahmer swinging a bat at every tree in the woods. Chronology isn’t important. Understanding Dahmer’s day-to-day activities is as important to this film as trying to imagine what would drive a man to kill so relentlessly.
Above all else, Jacobson seems intent on not having us see Dahmer as evil or powerful. He’s a man of weakness, a self-hating homosexual, who can only have sex with men by drugging them first. What may strike some watchers of DAHMER is how normal Jeffrey’s life was. His father was a pest but no more so than most concerned and slightly disappointed parents. Part of the reason Dahmer got away with what he was doing for so long was because the men he was abducting we mostly unimportant people like himself. In some cases, we learn as much about Dahmer intended victims as we do about Dahmer himself. Renner portrayal isn’t in any way ironic or humorous; he doesn’t crack cannibal jokes or winking at the camera after a successful seduction. He plays Dahmer as a man almost suffocating in his skin. His life lacked intimacy, and his horrible solution to that problem was murder and necrophilia. It could have easily been overeating or too much television. The film doesn’t try to explain why Dahmer mind went one way rather than another, and it would have failed miserably had it tried.
In many ways, it’s probably too soon for this movie to come out, but I’m so glad it’s here in this form because I feel quite certain that many years from now a bigger-budget version of the Jeffrey Dahmer story will pollute our cinemas and lose the small but significant details of Jacobson’s direction and Renner’s note-perfect performance. Also, people probably aren’t quite ready to see Dahmer as a human being or tragic antihero (I don’t think even I’m ready for that) or a sad example of one version of the human condition. This is a film that attempts to get inside Dahmer’s head but not too far. Is there blood? Some but not a lot. And in some strange way, the film isn't even about the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer; it's about his mind. If a theatre owner in your corner of the world is bold enough to play this film, check it out. I’m not sure of the release schedule for DAHMER, but it opens in Chicago at the Landmark Century Center theatre on July 12.