Jeffrey Dahmer Files, TheReviewed By Lybarger
Posted 03/25/13 07:21:02
Jeffrey Dahmerís crimes are so heinous that thereís no point in a straightforward recounting of life. Simply mentioning his name leads to appropriate feelings of disgust and fear. To tell his story properly, itís most productive to limit the scope of the story or to do something other than revel in how he lobotomized, murdered and even ate his victims.Jeffrey Dahmerís crimes are so heinous that thereís no point in a straightforward recounting of life. Simply mentioning his name leads to appropriate feelings of disgust and fear. To tell his story properly, itís most productive to limit the scope of the story or to do something other than revel in how he lobotomized, murdered and even ate his victims.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files is focused solely to the months around the time his crimes were finally discovered and features almost no gore to speak of. Director Chris James Thompson interweaves interviews from three of the people who dealt with the case from unique angles with reenactments and archival footage from news reports at the time.
The sequences are delivered out of chronological order and reveal basic facts of the case almost elliptically. Because Dahmer has become almost a household name, a point-by-point recreation seems needless.
That doesnít mean thereís nothing to learn in The Jeffrey Dahmer Files. The strongest portions of the documentary are the interviews, where the three subjects talk candidly about being so close to a mass murder. Neighbor Pamela Bass recalls the unenviable experience of sharing sandwiches with Dahmer and later wondering if the meat was of her own species.
Medical examiner Jeffrey Jentzen recalls how the carnage in Dahmerís apartment wound up overwhelming his office and how he and others had to use recently developed DNA techniques to identify all of the remains. For some reason, he canít understand the appeal of scary films and refuses to watch them.
The most fascinating person to listen to is Pat Kennedy, the Milwaukee detective who took Dahmerís confession. Kennedy wound up developing an odd empathy for the serial killer and vividly recalls how the case took a toll on his faltering marriage and his personal life. Kennedy even gave Dahmer some clothes that his teenage son didnít want so that heíd have something to wear in the courtroom besides an orange jumpsuit.
If the film had consisted simply of this trioís testimony, The Jeffrey Dahmer Files might have been more compelling. You donít need to embellish what these folks say. The film touches on the greatest tragedy in this story: how the police in Milwaukee were warned repeatedly about the horrid sounds and smells coming from Dahmerís apartment but did nothing until dozens were killed.
Because Dahmerís victims were either gay or ethnic minorities, the crimes revealed that the police had done a poor job of responding to the needs to those communities. Kennedy, who has retired from the force, now teaches courses that help cops identify potential problems in those areas.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files also includes some reenactments where Andrew Swant plays Dahmer. These segments include seemingly mundane but odd incidents that should have alerted others in Dahmerís neighborhood that he was up to something truly diabolical. Curiously, they donít reveal anything have havenít already learned from Kennedy, Jentzen and Bass havenít told viewers already.Iíll give Thompson credit for trying to examine this case in something other than a lurid manner. Nonetheless, you donít need any embellishments when you have three people who all have reliable firsthand accounts and who can speak eloquently for themselves.
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