Dahmer (film)

Dahmer is a 2002 American biographical true crime horror film directed by David Jacobson. It stars Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer in Wisconsin. There are two timelines in the film. The "present" runs in ordinary chronological order covering the period of one-to-two days; the flashbacks are in reverse order, as Dahmer is seen as successively younger until the film arrives at his first murder and the aftermath.

Original film poster
Directed byDavid Jacobson
Written byDavid Jacobson
Produced byLarry Ratner
CinematographyChris Manley
Edited byBipasha Shom
Music byChristina Agamanolis
Mariana Bernoski
Willow Williamson
Blockbuster Films
DEJ Productions
Two Left Shoes Films
Distributed byPeninsula Films
Release date
  • June 21, 2002 (2002-06-21)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$144,008[1]


Jeffrey Dahmer is a shy and socially awkward man in metropolitan Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Troubled by a turbulent childhood and his religious father's denial of his homosexuality, Dahmer lures attractive young men at home, where he conducts experiments and kills them, trying to create a living zombie who will never leave or judge him.

Flashback to Dahmer's past revealed that he killed his first victim, a hitchhiker he picked up in his hometown of Bath, Ohio, when he was a teenager. The flashbacks also reveal his troubled relationship with his father and Jeffrey's alcoholism. In the present, he rationalizes his crimes in Milwaukee over the divorce of his parents and his emotionally isolated childhood. Dahmer keeps inviting men home from bars and clubs, then he rapes and kills them.

At a fishing shop Dahmer meets a charismatic young Black man named Rodney and invites him home, intending to murder him, but as the night goes on and the conversations get more personal, Jeffrey is faced with an emotional crisis. Rodney confesses his romantic feelings for Jeffrey, but finds him evasive. During the course of their evening together, Jeffrey nearly strangles Rodney with a belt, but Rodney escapes from the apartment. The film ends with a flashback to Jeffrey as a teenager, going to a therapy session at his father's behest wherein before dropping him off Lionel offers to always listen to his son about anything he wants to talk to him about; when he arrives at the therapist's office, however, he turns away from the door and walks off into the woods. A title card then explains that Dahmer was found guilty of murdering 17 men, and killed in prison by a cellmate in 1994 after serving two years of his life sentence.



The movie was written and directed by David Jacobson and is a biography, crime, drama, and thriller film. Dahmer was the first film that Jacobson had written and directed.[2] Jacobson saw an article which said "Dahmer claimed he killed those guys because he was too afraid to lose them", that's what drove Jacobson's interest into making the film.[2] The film was heavily based on Court TV’s coverage of Dahmer's trial.[3] The movie was also based on a book his father Lionel Dahmer had written called " A Father's Story".[4] Dahmer's father stated that "Jeffrey was a lonely, isolated, young man dangerously cut off from his own bottled up fury". The producer of the film had chosen to focus on Jeffrey's selection of his victims and the mind games he plays, right before killing his victims.[5] Multiple producers were contacted by Jacobson in hopes that they would collaborate on the film, but many of the producers were disgusted by the explicit content. The director stated "that he sent out a 4-page statement on how he truly felt about the film, and what it was about".[6] Jacobson managed to make the film in 18 days.

The film was promoted using the longer title Dahmer: The Mind is a Place of its Own, but shortened to Dahmer in most cases.[7]

Although the script recreates actual events, the names are changed out of respect for Dahmer's victims. In reality, the escapee who led to Dahmer's capture was Tracy Edwards, portrayed by Artel Kayàru as Rodney, and Dahmer's first victim was Stephen Hicks, portrayed in the film by Matt Newton as Lance Bell. Production took place in Los Angeles, with one scene in Milwaukee. The mask special effects were created by Christien Tinsley and Kelley Mitchell, who were involved two years later in the makeup for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.


Box officeEdit

Dahmer began a limited release in the United States on June 21, 2002, opening in two theaters and grossing $16,093 during its first weekend.[1] The film later expanded its release to five theaters, and remained in theatrical distribution for 27 weeks.[1] By the conclusion of its run, it had grossed a total of $144,008 domestically.[1]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 72% based on reviews from 39 critics.[8] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 18 critics.[9]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, praising Renner's performance and the supporting roles, but saying the film "falls headlong into the trap of imagining that it can somehow rationalize the monstrous."[10] Robert Koehler of Variety wrote: "Jacobson produces a remarkably creepy piece of cinema that disturbs by suggestion, nuance and ambiguity."[11] Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a middling review, writing, "Filmmaker David Jacobson doesn't seem to know where to go with his version. He approaches crass exploitation by juxtaposing scenes of carnage with shots of chocolate spilling into a vat (Dahmer worked in a candy factory). Other moments carry real suspense and emotional weight."[12] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised Renner's performance, stating that he "imbues Jeffrey Dahmer with a very solemn desolation that looks just enough like "normal" pain to let you in on the way that this repressed, lonely freak could pass himself off as just another sad-eyed outcast."[13][14]

Shawn Levy of The Oregonian gave the film a positive review, noting, "Writer-director David Jacobson and his star, Jeremy Renner, have made a remarkable film that explores the monster's psychology not in order to excuse him but rather to demonstrate that his pathology evolved from human impulses that grew hideously twisted."[15]


At the 18th Independent Spirit Awards it received nominations for Best Male Lead for Jeremy Renner, Best Newcomer for Artel Kayàru, and the John Cassavetes Award for David Jacobson.[16]


Kathryn Bigelow said that she cast Renner in The Hurt Locker because of his performance in Dahmer.[17]

See AlsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Dahmer". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "David Jacobson | Judith Weston Studio For Actors And Directors". www.judithweston.com. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 21, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Trying to Make Sense of the Irrational (Published 2002)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  4. ^ "A Father's Story". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  5. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 21, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Trying to Make Sense of the Irrational (Published 2002)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  6. ^ "David Jacobson | Judith Weston Studio For Actors And Directors". www.judithweston.com. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  7. ^ "Summer Lineup: June". The New York Times. May 12, 2002.
  8. ^ Dahmer at Rotten Tomatoes
  9. ^ "Dahmer". Metacritic.
  10. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 21, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Trying to Make Sense of the Irrational". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Koehler, Robert (June 16, 2002). "Dahmer". Variety.
  12. ^ Meyer, Carla (July 12, 2002). "Lukewarm attempt to explain serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  13. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 10, 2002). "Dahmer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  14. ^ Kevin Thomas (June 21, 2002). "'Dahmer' Falls Short of the Horrible Truth". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Levy, Shawn (September 6, 2002). "Review: "Dahmer"". The Oregonian. p. 21.
  16. ^ "2003 IFP Independent Spirit Award Nominations". IndieWire. December 11, 2002. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020.
  17. ^ "Jeremy Renner, Breakout Star Of 'The Hurt Locker'". NPR. February 24, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2016.

External linksEdit