I'm gonna go ahead and clear the air about something before I get into this. Typically speaking, I don't think the serial killer biopic is a genre that's all that great. I find, in general, they tend to get a few facts right and sort of glorify all of the kills more for horror purposes than anything else. That sounds dumb, I know, but think of it this way - typically, you're getting a Jason or Freddy in the form of a real-life serial killer, but the only thing really scary about anything is that these people once existed.
So what is it I want from a good serial killer movie? I'm gonna go ahead and say I want something like this! 'Dahmer' is a film that gets us inside the killer's head in a big way, and that's the thing that makes this movie scary - as long as you can ignore the fact that Dahmer is played by Jeremy Renner, or as we all know him now, Marvel's "Hawkeye" (or former Hawkeye, anyway). I can see that adding to some idea of not being able to take him very seriously here, but trust me when I say he pulls off the role incredibly well. If you've ever wanted proof Renner can really act and not just be an action hero, this is it.
The film itself follows Jefferey Dahmer, living alone in Milwaukee, WI, as we are essentially shown how he did what he did. We get several flashbacks throughout the film that go back to his teenage years. One such memory involves his first kill in Bath, Ohio, and more consist of his relationship with his parents; namely his homophobic father, and his alcoholism. The main focus is generally the present day when Dahmer brings back a young man named Rodney (Artel Great) to his apartment with the intent to kill, but it also shows a firm example of his, shall we say, mixed feelings towards his murders, as there's clearly something between them.
Now, to make one thing clear about this film - it is a very uncomfortable film, both in the atmosphere and a lot of the physical activity going on, on different levels. It's darkly lit for the most part, with eerie music throughout, and the tension keeps building through it. But there's also almost a sort of twisted artistry to it. Now, I can stand to sit through a lot, but this does provide a pretty good test of the viewer's nerves. It's sincerely not even something I'd dub a horror movie so much as it is a dark drama, but I have to say, there were some scenes that made me squirm here. But the beauty of it is that it was all done without him just being some angry dude with a gnarly weapon. We really get to know Jefferey here, and it's great to see another one (like the last one) that isn't just a list of facts acted out (like the next one).
I'm going to suggest this mostly to anyone who is really into any sort of true crime involving high-profile serial killers. If you're interested in Dahmer in particular (duh), I'd recommend it even higher. But truth be told, it's quite a bit to get through. It's not long, but it's very dialogue-heavy with a lot of disturbing scenery within. This one seems to be made to play on the psyche with the way Dahmer thinks much more than to say "Hey, here's what he did". It's also one the critic will probably appreciate more than the average moviegoer, but I think this has the potential to appeal to the right audience. Either way, if you have yourself a Prime subscription, it can be found over there right now!