Serial killers have always fascinated me. Not in an admiration sort of way (obviously), but in a “how can someone do that?” kind of way. I’ve never understood how a human being could have such dark places in their brain that would make them do such horrible things to others. It’s enthralled me since childhood, and one thing that I’ve always wondered, is how the actions of a serial killer affects those who had encountered them. Chris James Thompson’s THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES addresses just that, and I’ve got to say, it’s a home run of a film.
THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES gives you two different approaches throughout the film. The first one is a documentary, featuring interviews with three people: Police Detective Patrick Kennedy, (the man who was responsible for getting Dahmer to confess), Milwaukee Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen, (who was in charge of going through the crime scene and saw most of the horrendous carnage that Dahmer had stored there) and Pamela Bass, Dahmer’s neighbor and friend. All three people tell their stories about the whole tragedy, and if the film featured just those interviews, it would still be great, but how the film becomes even more elevated, is the addition of really well done dramatizations of Dahmer going through everyday life. When I first heard that the film used that approach, I wasn’t excited whatsoever, as a lot of films that do this tend to make those scenes too dramatic and unbelievable, but not this time around. The scenes with Dahmer going about his day pull you into the story so well, and as the film goes on, his everyday life slowly begins to lean towards his horrendous acts.
It feels like a feature length episode of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, in the best way. The tone, the way it looks, it just works on every single level. The stories that Bass tells about sharing beers with “Jeff”, making him sandwiches, and being pretty much his only friend, almost gives you a glimpse of humanity to the monster, and when Bass finds out what horrendous crimes Dahmer was committing the whole time, you can tell there’s a level of sadness to her. Kennedy’s stories are equally intense, having spent days with Dahmer, questioning him. There’s a scene where Kennedy tells a story of going home for a second and his wife watching the news about Dahmer and the crime scene and asking him if he’s a part of the investigation and he responds with telling her how he’s pretty much the guy assigned to taking care of Jeff. Kennedy also reveals that the infamous striped shirt and jeans that Dahmer wore to this court date were actually clothes from Kennedy’s son, that he had given to Jeff to wear. The stories throughout the film are full engrossing, and they go from stories of normal conversations, to some pretty frightening stuff.
If THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES is any indication of Thompson’s skills as a filmmaker, then I’m definitely on board with whatever he has coming next, because it’s a force to be reckoned with. It works so well, and leaves you thinking about the film well after it’s over.
THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES is now playing in select theaters, cable VOD & digital outlets (SundanceNow, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, PS3 Playstation Unlimited, XBOX Zune, Google PLAY and YouTube) via IFC FILMS