The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
Dahmer, for those perhaps too young to remember, was arrested in the summer of 1991 when a man's head was found in his refrigerator, and he was eventually charged with killing 17 people, dismembering their bodies in gruesome ways, saving various trophies and in some cases even eating them. Originally titled just Jeff, director Chris James Thompson's movie intersperses archival footage with the remembrances of a unique trio — the police detective, Pat Kennedy, who first queried Dahmer and took his confession; the city medical examiner, Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, who processed the crime scene and handled much of the testing that helped identify the victims; and Pamela Bass, a neighbor of Dahmer's who lived in the same apartment complex and befriended him.
Taken together, these interviewees weave a fairly compelling tale, including their reactions to Dahmer's death in prison two years after being sentenced to 957 years incarceration. Kennedy in particular is a somewhat theatrical character — his slightly-too-big-for-his-face moustache makes him seem like a cross between Harry Reems and Tom Crean, ready for a rodeo — and his ruminations give the movie its spine. In fact, Kennedy's memories and anecdotes (it was clothes from his high school-age son that Dahmer borrowed to wear to his first public hearing) are often almost as fascinating for his processing and feelings regarding them as some of the content itself.
It's a shame, then, that The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, which otherwise benefits from a subtle yet strong score by composer Robert Mulrennan, seems so restless and rudderless. The film's recreations — starring Andrew Swant as Dahmer — are far from exploitative or gruesome; they mainly consist of everyday routines, and quiet scenes of him buying items he would use in his killings, like a barrel, security cameras and acid. Yet they add little to the collective punch of the movie, and are further undermined by the ill-reasoned use of archival footage featuring the real Dahmer.
Thompson tries to thread a too-fine needle with this already spare experiment, which clocks in at just over 75 minutes. It's an art collage project that unnecessarily obscures its sizzle and raison d'être when a more straightforward tack would have worked better. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. In addition to its theatrical engagements, The Jeffrey Dahmer Files is also available across various cable VOD platforms, as well as iTunes, Xbox and Sundance Now. For more information, click here to visit the movie's website. (IFC Films, unrated, 75 minutes)