UK Release Date: 1st June 2018
Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: Marc Meyers
Writer: Marc Meyers
Starring: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Vincent Kartheiser, Tommy Nelson, Harrison Holzer
Synopsis: A strange cult of friendship forms around the oddball Jeffrey Dahmer during his high school years, as hints grow about the serial killer he would grow to become.
One of the first things we learn about the young Jeffrey Dahmer in this new biographical drama is that he enjoyed dissolving animals in acid and inspecting their bones, while he was at high school. It’s not a massively surprising revelation – the murdering weirdo was already weird at school – and it very much sums up the feel of My Friend Dahmer from start to finish. This is a movie that tells the audience plenty of stuff about the man behind the salacious headlines, but it’s unfortunately stuff that everyone already knows.
In perhaps the one interesting twist presented by writer-director Marc Meyers, the movie casts Disney Channel regular Ross Lynch – last seen dancing on tables to Bruno Mars in Status Update – as the young Dahmer. It’s a stark contrast to Lynch’s squeaky clean surfer dude image, but it’s not a performance that allows him to cover himself in glory. Whether the choice was his or Meyers’s, Lynch spends most of the movie hunched over and performing a series of overwrought tics. It’s not a landmark in subtlety, but Lynch certainly does some impressive work when he can.
The story focuses upon Dahmer’s fractious relationship with his family, most notably his mother, played by a solid but underused Anne Heche. It also follows his time at high school, where his attention-seeking antics earned him a strange group of friends known as The Dahmer Club in tribute to his apparently hilarious habit for impersonating epileptic seizures. The leader of this group is Derf (Alex Wolff) – an aspiring graphic artist upon whose book the movie is ultimately based.
This movie incarnation of Dahmer is a tedious creation. He simply mopes around in near silence, while his giggling cabal of idiots wander around chuckling at his tendency for “spazzing out” in the most inappropriate of circumstances. None of these characters are remotely fleshed out, though even the slightest of perspective shifts would have helped with that. Given the film’s basis in the recollections of Wolff’s character, it would have made far more sense for him to be the protagonist and this would have at least allowed a different angle on the portrayal of Dahmer.
There’s a way that this movie could’ve worked as an intriguing character study, delving into the first seeds of Dahmer’s internal darkness. In place of that intrigue, though, Meyers simply delivers a grey study in bleakness that never rises above a resting pulse rate. As a result, it’s tough to ever get invested in the story that it’s telling. Like the opening act of a horror movie, it feels like the prelude to the gripping elements of the narrative, except those elements never come.
Pop or Poop?
There’s acres of potential in My Friend Dahmer and Ross Lynch tries his best to elevate the material. However, there’s just very little to the movie and it never moves beyond the miserable mood of its grey tone. The room for insight is there, but Marc Meyers’s film never manages to reach that level.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.