My Friend Dahmer
Directed by: Marc Meyers
Run time: 107 minutes
The Lowdown: There’s nothing more exhilarating for a movie fan than to discover a film where not only the director but his cast take a significant, often shocking risk to push beyond what they’ve done before.
My Friend Dahmer is exactly that movie, and it’s a wholly unsettling and unforgettable glimpse into the mind and the making of a serial killer.
Writer-director Marc Meyers, working from the memoir of the same name by John ‘Derf’ Backderf, completely nails the high school isolation, intimidation and rites of passage that define young adults at their most vulnerable point in life. The difference here is that few could have predicted the path that young Jeff Dahmer’s life would take once he graduated. Meyers previously films have been mostly stories of love and loss, but nothing as chilling as what he accomplishes here.
Of course, there are plenty of films that read great on paper but completely fall apart due to a bad performance. And that is My Friend Dahmer’s biggest risk and greatest reward – casting Ross Lynch, a former Disney child actor, as Dahmer.
Lynch not only transforms into the socially awkward, sexually confused Dahmer, he makes you believe that you’re almost spying on his most private, intimate moments, whether he’s silently stalking a handsome male doctor who jogs daily by his parent’s house, trying to share his morbid fascination with decomposition among friends or he’s carefully calculating the response to a sudden outburst in the middle of a crowded high school hallway.
My Friend Dahmer barely shows any blood. It doesn’t attempt to manipulate Backderf’s memories of the year he and Dahmer became fast friends. It doesn’t overreach by adding dream sequences or fantasy thoughts of violence. And it’s that much better for it. My Friend Dahmer just is, and what it “is” is thoroughly compelling and unnerving as hell.
Meyers gets terrific support from his cast, including a wonderfully unhinged Anne Heche as Dahmer’s mother, Joyce (between this and Catfight, Heche has hopefully, finally shed the tabloid image that upended her once-white hot career), and a nicely nuanced performance by Alex Wolff (another former child star) as Backderf.
The highest compliment that a film can be paid often is what it prompts viewers to do after watching. With My Friend Dahmer, I suspect many people will do as I did and immediately seek out more information online about the real life relationship between these two young men.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Not really.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Mild.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – The birth of a serial killer.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Molly’s Game (Universal, 141 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): One of 2017’s best movies finally arrives on Blu-Ray, and it deserves to be seen to fully appreciate both Aaron Sorkin’s wonderfully acrobatic dialogue and Jessica Chastain’s commanding lead performance. Check out BVB’s review in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay right here.
Full Moon High (Shout! Factory, 93 minutes, PG, Blu-Ray): Writer-director Larry Cohen has enjoyed a rich and varied career, transitioning from television writer and series creator in the 1960’s to a fully-fledged genre provocateur in the 1970’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s.
Odds are you’ve seen plenty of his movies without even knowing that he was involved. From the blaxploitation classic Black Caesar to iconic horror gems like It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff and Maniac Cop, Cohen was a master at taking ordinary situations, subverting them with social commentary and gory circumstances and creating memorable characters who thrived on his pulpy dialogue.
It’s funny now to revisit an early Cohen effort, 1981’s low-budget horror-comedy, Full Moon High, and see how much he progressed and improved over time.
Full Moon High is a ridiculous (and honestly pretty woeful) werewolf movie starring Ed McMahon and a young Adam Arkin, but it also is an important film given its obvious influence on two iconic 1980’s properties – 1983’s Thriller video by Michael Jackson and John Landis, and 1985’s Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox.
I’d never seen Full Moon High until receiving Shout! Factory’s first-ever high-definition transfer of the film, and honestly, I was struggling to both stay invested and awake watching the story of high school athlete Tony’s evolution from jock to lycanthrope. But, then, two things happened: One, Tony transformed into his werewolf alter-ego while attending the high school dance, and I kid you not, several of the actors strike eerily-similar poses to the iconic Thriller zombie shuffle, so much so that I think it’s fair to say Landis completely borrowed that idea. And, two, when Tony transforms into his furry self while playing in the big football rivalry game. It’s Teen Wolf on the gridiron instead of the hardwood court.
Whether anyone involved in those two properties would ever own up to being influenced by Cohen and Full Moon High isn’t the point. The point is that it was a wonderful surprise to discover the likely origin of two of my favorite things from the decade that just keeps on giving.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay 4K Ultra (Warner Bros., 86 minutes, R, 4K Ultra HD): Here’s one online troll war that DC Comics and its (up to now) underperforming DCEU film division will always win, hands down: DC’s animated film properties are to Marvel’s similar animated film properties like comparing Picasso to a second-grader’s finger-paint self-portrait. DC destroys its competition in this category, all day, every day. So much so that the animated Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is infinitely better than its live-action Suicide Squad feature from 2016.
Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years – Vol. 2
Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke: 40th Anniversary
Deep Red: Limited Edition
Not to be Overlooked:
The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who’s Walking (Warner Bros., 22 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Uncensored, unhinged and uncompromisingly funny. The Robot Chicken team has assembled an amazing voice cast to lend their talents to this wickedly uproarious skewering of television’s number one show. If you geeked out over Robot Chicken’s DC Comics specials, you’re going to love this one just as much.