Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Doc about Jeffrey Dahmer pairs reenactments and well-chosen interviews to calmly chilling effect.

Feb 14, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1371898-Jeffrey_Dahmer_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Achieving an almost trance-like intimacy by paring its array of voices down to the essentials, Chris James Thompson's The Jeffrey Dahmer Files stands apart from the true-crime pack. Its restraint likely limits theatrical prospects, but the doc should have legs on video.

Focusing almost exclusively on the moment at which serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's bizarre crimes were discovered, the film interviews only three people, all with first-hand knowledge: the detective who interviewed Dahmer (Pat Kennedy), the medical examiner (Jeffrey Jentzen) who explored what he left behind, and a neighbor (Pamela Bass) who will always be haunted by the gruesome crimes committed under her nose.

Each adds a different flavor to the narrative, but while Bass and Jentzen may supply the most shocking imagery (Bass, who found Dahmer to be a friendly and generous neighbor, is horrified to think what might have been in the sandwiches he gave her), Kennedy is the most engaging viewer surrogate—a big, mustachioed fella forced to befriend the killer during the long process of identifying his victims.

While Kennedy and Bass sketch the event's macabre aftermath, full of curious tourists and psychological trauma, Thompson approaches the period just before Dahmer's capture differently: In atmospheric vignettes scattered through the film, he uses actor Andrew Swant to envision Dahmer's calm, polite movement through the workaday world. He gets his eyes checked and drinks beer, shops for pet fish and for hardware that is sinister only in retrospect. We witness scenes before and after one hotel-room murder, but not the thing itself—Thompson's goal is never titillation.

He doesn't appear to be after psychological insights either, though Swant's performance is eerily convincing. Instead, the two halves of the film combine to produce a powerful you-are-there effect, stripping Dahmer of evil-icon stature and unsettling us by showing how closely the unthinkable can lurk alongside the mundane.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Doc about Jeffrey Dahmer pairs reenactments and well-chosen interviews to calmly chilling effect.

Feb 14, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1371898-Jeffrey_Dahmer_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Achieving an almost trance-like intimacy by paring its array of voices down to the essentials, Chris James Thompson's The Jeffrey Dahmer Files stands apart from the true-crime pack. Its restraint likely limits theatrical prospects, but the doc should have legs on video.

Focusing almost exclusively on the moment at which serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's bizarre crimes were discovered, the film interviews only three people, all with first-hand knowledge: the detective who interviewed Dahmer (Pat Kennedy), the medical examiner (Jeffrey Jentzen) who explored what he left behind, and a neighbor (Pamela Bass) who will always be haunted by the gruesome crimes committed under her nose.

Each adds a different flavor to the narrative, but while Bass and Jentzen may supply the most shocking imagery (Bass, who found Dahmer to be a friendly and generous neighbor, is horrified to think what might have been in the sandwiches he gave her), Kennedy is the most engaging viewer surrogate—a big, mustachioed fella forced to befriend the killer during the long process of identifying his victims.

While Kennedy and Bass sketch the event's macabre aftermath, full of curious tourists and psychological trauma, Thompson approaches the period just before Dahmer's capture differently: In atmospheric vignettes scattered through the film, he uses actor Andrew Swant to envision Dahmer's calm, polite movement through the workaday world. He gets his eyes checked and drinks beer, shops for pet fish and for hardware that is sinister only in retrospect. We witness scenes before and after one hotel-room murder, but not the thing itself—Thompson's goal is never titillation.

He doesn't appear to be after psychological insights either, though Swant's performance is eerily convincing. Instead, the two halves of the film combine to produce a powerful you-are-there effect, stripping Dahmer of evil-icon stature and unsettling us by showing how closely the unthinkable can lurk alongside the mundane.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Godzilla
Film Review: Godzilla

The famed monster rises from the ocean to attack Japan in a highly influential movie, seen here in its original form and with revised subtitles. More »

Antboy
Film Review: Antboy

Hey there, there goes a mostly bland but very kid-friendly Spider-Man clone. More »

Soft in the Head
Film Review: Soft in the Head

A concise and blistering indie that captures a sense of volatile madness via sharp handheld aesthetics and a commanding lead performance from Sheila Etxeberría. More »

Cesar's Last Fast
Film Review: Cesar's Last Fast

A reverential perspective on America’s renowned union founder and leader. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here