Tuesday, October 6, 2020

DAHMER (2002) Blu-ray Review

SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 5
Total First Time Views: 4
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $315.25

Dahmer (2002) d. David Jacobson (USA) (102 min) (1st viewing)

The story of mild-mannered Wisconsin serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer sent shock waves through the Midwest and the country when he was finally arrested in the summer of 1991, ending a reign of terror that spanned nearly two decades and claimed the lives of 17 men and boys. Dubbed “the Milwaukee Cannibal” and “the Milwaukee Monster” by the press, Dahmer became an instant household name, evoking a potent combination of revulsion and fascination from the American public. While the case specifics are exceedingly bizarre and perverse (cannibalism, necrophilia), writer/directory Jacobson’s filmic account elects to focus less on the gruesome details and more upon the individual that perpetrated them. It is this attention to Dahmer’s flawed humanity that elevates what could have been a ghoulish celebration of real-life atrocities into a genuine character study that offers no easy nor pat answers.

Jacobson delivers a thoughtful examination of his subject’s life, shuttling back and forth in time from Dahmer’s awkward youth in Ohio to his adult life in Milwaukee (where the majority of the crimes occurred), and the young filmmaker is aided immeasurably by Jeremy Renner’s fully realized performance that manages to humanize without necessarily generating sympathy. (Kathryn Bigelow apparently cast Renner as the lead in her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker based largely on his turn here.)

This is not a tasteless or sensationalized “horror” version of Dahmer’s murderous legacy; instead, it delivers dread-soaked snapshots of a murderous life without overbaked judgment or explanation or suppositions. The viewer is left to draw his or her own conclusions as to why an honorably discharged Army veteran (and college dropout) would end up beaten to death in the Columbia Correctional Institution while serving 15 consecutive life sentences, while processing their own feelings about Dahmer and his crimes.

Renner, who would go one to become one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood due to his role as Clint Barton aka “Hawkeye” in Marvel's Avengers movies, inhabits his role with an assured combination of shyness and latent hostility, an outsider seeking connection but unable to appreciate it. His stammering awkward teen years, under the thumb of his well-meaning father (Bruce Davison), appear as the pupae stage for the polished sociopath to evolve, and thanks to Jacobson’s splintered timeline, we get to fully appreciate Renner’s skillful nuance even as we mentally edge away from the screen and its haunting account of the many that didn’t get away, as well as the one that did (Artel Kayaru).

While not explicit in showcasing the grisly crimes, there is enough implied to have a few tender stomachs rolling. More character study and art-film drama than gratuitous real-life crime shocker, there is much to appreciate, and it’s a shame that Jacobson’s career didn’t enjoy much of a boost from his fine work here. (His highest profile credit to date appears to be as a producer on the recent Eli Roth’s History of Horror.)


Audio commentary with David Jacobson, Jeremy Renner, and Artel Kayaru

“The Mind is a Place of Its Own” making-of featurette (16 min)

Stills Gallery

Storyboards Gallery

Theatrical Trailers

Dahmer is available now on Blu-ray from MVD Visual and can be ordered HERE:



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