When My Friend Dahmer premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, critics were left feeling completely shocked. The film is set in the 70’s and tells the story of Jeffrey Dahmer as a high schooler. As we all know, Jeffrey grew up to violently and sadistically murder 17 boys from 1978 to 1991.
The film is based on a novel by John ‘Nerf’ Backderf who actually went to school with Jeffrey. The novel started off as a comic series in response to the many questions that were asked of him when people found out that he knew the serial killer before he actually began the murderous streak.
The eerie film is directed by Marc Meyers who John trusted to bring the story from paper to the big screen. The film was shot in Akron, Ohio – where Jeffrey grew up – and the crew even had access to the home where Jeffrey and his family grew up. This home was also the location of Jeffrey’s first murder.
During an interview with Rolling Stone, Marc Meyers said that the story is discomforting, but it’s just part of it.
‘The story is discomforting, that’s just part and parcel of what the book is. Obviously [Jeffrey Dahmer] was unique, but there are lots of kids who fall between the cracks or off the edge of a cliff and end tragically. I think people will be uncomfortable, but tough. That’s just part of the story.‘
Jeffrey’s first murder happened about 3 weeks after high school and the film will lead up to that. He also says that at the beginning of the novel, Jeffrey poses for picture day and he’s seen by everyone as a class clown, from ‘an alarmingly normal suburban family.’
However, John describes Jeffrey as someone who wasn’t all that normal at all as time progressed. Little things began to change in Jeffrey and those little changes turned into the foundation for what he became. Oh, and that ‘normal suburban family’ thing, well…that wasn’t exactly what people thought either. He says that Jeffrey was obsessed with bones, watched animals die by placing them in acid. He faked seizures and he created fantasies about rape and tearing bodies apart.
Jeffrey also quickly became an alcoholic and his blank stare and isolation from everyone around him were the first signs that he wasn’t just shutting himself out from people, he was disconnecting from the world. Eventually, he would kill Steven Hicks before taking his body apart and grinding his bones into nothing.
His violent and inhumane tendencies only grew as he not only murdered his victims, but dissected their bodies, took part in necrophilia and even cannibalism, and admitted to drilling a hole into the head of a live victim. It’s disturbing, to say the very least, but the graphic novel does seem to show how Jeffrey’s descent happened and how many people didn’t see it coming. Just because something looks normal on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s alright on the inside.
FilmRise acquired My Friend Dahmer at the festival and it’s set to be released in the US this fall. Will you see the film or have you read the graphic novel yet? Let us know.
‘…but I knew him’