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

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

Beneath
Film Review: Beneath

Claustrophobics beware: For the bulk of this tightly constructed thriller, the characters are trapped 600 feet underground in a dark, aging coal mine, backed into one tight space after another as they try to elude someone or something with murderous intentions. You have been warned. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Lucy
Film Review: Lucy

Drugs unleash the full potential of the brain with tragic results in Luc Besson's sci-fi adventure. More »

Magic in the Moonlight
Film Review: Magic in the Moonlight

Slight Woody Allen period romance is enlivened by appealing leads Colin Firth and Emma Stone. 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