My Friend Dahmer: The Look Into The Making of a Killer


Ashton T. Livingston, Entertainment editor

One of America’s most notorious serial killers, known to many as the man eater, but there is much more story to the mad man than what he did in the later years of his life. My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel written by one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s closest friends growing up, or at least as close as he could be. Derf Backderf went through high school a normal kid which inspirations of being a political cartoonist. Jeffrey Dahmer went through high school isolated, collecting roadkill and melting the skin off its bones with acid provided by his chemist father. Jeffrey had a horrible home life with his mother suffering from a long list of mental illness she tried to drown in medication. The graphic novel shows us and guides us through a horrible high school life and even brings us to his first kill.

Recently a movie adaptation has been released of the critically acclaimed graphic novel starring Ross Lynch as Jeffrey Dahmer and Alex Wolff as Derf Backderf. One thing the film does better than the book is the presentation of the torment Dahmer went through when shrouding and covering his sexuality. Dahmer grew up in the 70’s during a time where being gay was something shunned upon and even tormented over. Dahmer was no exception to any of this torment, his just went into all the wrong places. A big story arc in the story for both the graphic novel and film was that of the jogger Dahmer fantasized about. We see what Dahmer wanted with this man and it is horrifying. Ross Lynch brings the tormented mind and emotions to life with ease in these scenes. With terrifyingly simplistic shots made scary by such a terrific performance.

The portrayals of these characters in the film is spectacular. Alex Wolff brings his usual charisma and charm in this role as he does in most. Thankfully though, we don’t have to see him cry. Hereditary showed me that he can’t really act sad and ugly cry that well, but other than that he is a great actor. Each actor brings something special to the role, Ross Lynch brought Jeffrey Dahmer back from the dead in his “down to the slouch” performance. The real life Derf Backderf even remarked on how perfect Lynch’s performance is. The cinematography is simplistically terrifying. I love cinematography like this as it causes some sort of reaction to me personally. The sort of set up way of the camera causes a haunting feeling within me.

        The graphic novel itself has a very symmetrical feel to each of its frames which carries over to the film of course. Backderf’s background in political cartoons carries over to his comic. Along with his journalistic views and values to tell the whole story along with the truth. Various pieces of his story is pulled from interviews he conducted with people. Each of these makes a haunting story that haunts the reader or viewer down to the bone. The story of a teenage boy who could be any one of us is terrifying. The author of the graphic novel couldn’t even believe that the man he went through high school with to be a horrendous murderer.

        The story presented here is truly haunting and sticks with you. The imagery presented by the film one-ups the graphic novel at various points in the film and even presents parts of Jeffrey Dahmer mentality better than the source material. My Friend Dahmer is a triumph of film and of the comic book medium. The comic book medium is one that can present things in spectacular ways and is brilliant with world building. Because the book uses its medium so well and the film translates it perfectly I give both the book and film an A. My Friend Dahmer is rated R for language, disturbing images, teen drug use, drinking, sexual content, and brief nudity.