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Raising Jeffrey Dahmer
cast: Scott Cordes, Rusty Sneary, Bo Svenson, Cathy Barnett, and Jeannine Hutchings

director: Rich Ambler

81 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Ben J. Lamb
Depicting a serial killer's story through the full use of their name never seems to work as a format. Films such as Ted Bundy (2002), and Ed Gein (2000), are not exactly classics to say the least. But it's the films like Psycho (1960), Silence Of The Lambs (1991), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), loosely based on these killers' stories, which are able to be formed into cinematic art in their own right. Patty Jenkins' Monster (2003) was probably the closest cinema has come to following a serial killer's story as accurately as possible whilst still sufficiently fictionalising it for the medium of film. It is difficult getting a balance between fact and fiction, something too close to the facts can often lose sight of a connection with an audience and find itself a dramatised documentary. Raising Jeffrey Dahmer however, is neither particularly accurate nor is it gripping in the slightest.

The DVD cover itself seems to suggest the film is a horror movie, possibly involving a dead Dahmer being resurrected to wreak havoc upon on teenagers. However, unlike the blood splattered cover, not a drop is spilled in the entire film. Raising Jeffrey Dahmer is a drama about Lionel Dahmer and the difficulties of raising and bonding with his infamous son. As Lionel Dahmer comes to terms with the fact his son is a serial killer, after a sudden earth-shattering police phone call, for the rest of the film he feebly pieces together key moments in Jeffrey's childhood and comes to terms with the burden he must face.

As Lionel gets past the initial shock and guilt which cripples him he starts reminiscing and trying to find out where it all went wrong, searching and questioning where his son's tendencies came from and whether they do in fact share the same bloodlust. Whilst questioning himself, Lionel soon finds himself a victim of the media and the local law enforcement who are quick to point the finger of blame. This could have made for an interesting critique of our modern times but instead all is forgiven as he gives a gushing speech to all the cameras waiting outside his house, claiming "I love him even now."

Essentially the film does not work because Lionel as a character is simply not interesting enough. People will pick up this DVD to learn more about Jeffrey, to understand the psyche of the disturbed man or how he lived a seemingly normal existence as he mutilated bodies in his grandmother's house. But instead of using the father as a plot device to channel Jeffrey's psychopathic tendencies, his father's pathetic blubbering is the centre of our attention and with little meaning or complexity it is just impossible to empathise.

Anyone wanting to learn about Jeffrey Dahmer will learn absolutely nothing from this film, nothing that a well researched documentary with interviews of those close to him could. Instead director Rich Ambler has tried to go for an eerie atmosphere which never works as the endless long pauses and awkwardness creates dull viewing. Overall there is not a single aspect to this film to scare or un-comfort an audience, let alone capture the essence of a family trying to pick up the pieces. As for Dahmer himself, there is nothing new to add to the puzzle of the man and the banality of his evil.
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