“My Friend Dahmer”: the background making of a serial killer
Ross Lynch gives a showstopping performance in one of the scariest stories of the century. | Photo Courtesy of movpins.com
Some may have heard of the name Jeffrey Dahmer: psycho-serial killer, murderer of 17 young men. A name that remains capable of bringing chills to the spine and goosebumps to the neck. Many fear this name, but director Marc Meyers brought a newfound perception to the label of a killer with his adaption of the book, “My Friend Dahmer.” John Backderf, Dahmer’s high school colleague, wrote the book from his perspective, presenting itself through a very different pathway than ordinary filmmaking usually presents itself.
Dahmer took up the roles of brother, son and dog-owner. He attended a public high school and did his homework like every other kid his age, but his pastimes proved a bit more provocative. He found himself thoroughly fascinated by dismembering roadkill, as well as obsessively watching one jogger run past his home each Monday and Wednesday morning. His habitual behaviors seemed awfully peculiar for anyone—especially a teenage boy—but he was not just a teenage boy.
With no friends, he embodied the epitome of a loner—until one day his teacher called on him and he did not know the answer. Instead of awkwardly saying he did not know, he broke into a spasm, a spasm he hoped would bring comedic relief to his classmates, and that it did. After this positive reaction he continued to do so in a similar fashion each time, every time getting a bigger crowd of support in the form of laughter around him. Backderf and his friends took notice, and decided to “befriend” Dahmer. This catapulted the beginnings of his madness.
After a while of being held up as the posterchild of the Dahmer fan club, Dahmer began to realize he lacked true friendship with any of the members, he was indeed still a pariah. They just made him a pariah that was publicly mocked. The knowledge of this budding within him alongside a horrific familial and home situation caused Dahmer to suffer from some terrible inner conflict.
The process of watching a young man lose his mind due to insecurity, lack of community, misunderstanding and lack of of attention became difficult to watch. Most predictably one would expect a Hollywood perspective to include the murders themselves, the gory crimes that often take place amongst the world of serial killers, but participating in the vivid mental exploration of Dahmer proved absolutely fascinating.
Having Backderf as the insider chock-full of information and first hand memories of his friend, brought the film to life in a completely refreshing and unexpected way. It also helped that Ross Lynch played the lead of Dahmer. At the Q&A after the screening, Lynch explained that he prepared for the role by closely studying accounts of Dahmer’s life as well as his interviews, noting things like his posture, tone of voice and even speech patterns. Although these may all seem like obvious things any proficient actor should take into consideration, not all actors prove adept enough to incorporate such miniscule detail into their performance.
“My Friend Dahmer” provides an exhilarating ride of both intense anxiety as well as empathetic feelings that makes for a thorough learning experience. Dahmer’s situation surpassed one’s average high school drama, but there was still ample room for finding correlation through his experiences. The director and cast did a fantastic job of keeping the story enticing and frightening, but most of all, keeping the audience completely captivated by the scenes to come.