1 July 2003 | malcremin
Better than the packaging suggests
Jacobson's film shows little violence. That's a point I'd like to stress because there is a certain audience I think will appreciate this film but who may not give it a chance because they expect graphic nastiness. Against the film's interests, the marketing tries to sell the film to the cheap horror-movie audience and I think this is a pity.
Instead of depicting violence, Jacobson's film discomforts you using dramatic means - principally writing and acting. All of which are used with enough skill to distinguish the film from cheap horror movies. It would be wrong and unfair to dismiss Dahmer because of its packaging. It is a well-written and performed character drama.
It's subject matter is too horrible for the general drama audience to welcome, but at the same time its serious approach makes it too straight for the entertainment market. By that I mean the Hannibal Lecter/Seven audience, who prefer their serial killer tales abstracted (and therefore made safe) by the presence of movie stars.
Dahmer is more akin to Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer in being low budget, filled with unfamiliar faces, and focussed so much on the killer that there is no awareness of the authorities or justice in the story. There is no hero cop or FBI agent in pursuit.
Dahmer is very unlike McNaughton's infamous film because, as already mentioned, it's low on violence, but also because it's a technically better-executed piece of work. The photography and editing, the use of music, the already-mentioned acting and writing, make this a surprisingly good-quality film considering the expectations stacked against it. One technical achievement I find worth noting is how well it recreates period. Sequences set in the 80's have a visual authenticity that puts big budget studio attempts to shame.
Obviously, you know what kind of film you like. If what I've said above sounds interesting to you, then I recommend giving it a look. I repeat that you will not see much in the way of gore or violence. There are plenty of films with more graphic content dressed more commercially. Dahmer won't make you feel good. It isn't a fun movie. But if you are looking for something with more substance you may find it.