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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, February 25, 2024

Netflix's 'Dahmer' sends shivers down viewers' spines

The promotional poster for "Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" (2022) is pictured.

There has been considerable buzz around  “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” (2022) on Netflix, created by Ryan Murphy, who is known for his creepy and stylistic anthologies like “American Horror Story” (2011–) and “American Crime Story” (2016–) as well as the less chilling but equally unconventional hit show “Glee” (2009–2015). Dahmer stars Evan Peters, a usual suspect in Murphy’s shows, appearing frequently as main characters in seasons of “American Horror Story.”

“Dahmer” takes a firsthand look into the plots and experiences of Jeffrey Dahmer and his victims. It can be extremely difficult to watch at times, so viewer discretion is advised.

The plot follows Jeffrey Dahmer, a famous serial killer known for his calm exterior and maliciousness behind closed doors, in his descent into sheer evil and madness. The story takes place between 1978 and 1991, and follows Dahmer’s progression from his high school years to his later years as a full-blown killer with a trail of 17 victims.

By far, a standout performance goes to Peters for his portrayal of the title character, Jeffrey Dahmer. He perfectly nails his calm, collected voice with psychopathy hidden underneath his words. At times, Peters’ performance is so convincing it is nearly impossible to watch.

The situations that come across on screen between dynamics of Dahmer and his victims, or frankly almost any other character, are portrayed in such realistic styles that the dialogue really gets the viewer to recognize that these interactions, while dramatized, are based on real events.

Other standout performances go to Niecy Nash as Glenda Cleveland, the former is a neighbor of Jeffrey Dahmer who reports him to the police only to be ignored, and Richard Jenkins as Lionel Dahmer, the father of Jeffrey who is shown grappling with his failures at getting his son the help and attention he needs.

In a scene where Cleveland confronts Dahmer, her terror in sitting across from him is palpable. She asks him where all the screaming and loud metal noises in his apartment are coming from, and what he does in his apartment at night. His menacing calm exterior is chilling, and he offers her a sandwich. She refuses the sandwich, seemingly made out of ... let's just say NOT turkey, and she stares at him in horror before demanding he exit her apartment immediately.

Scenes like that interaction are the perfect example of the sort of slowly imploding psychopathy of Dahmer’s intense anger problems and disgusting behavior that penetrates his otherwise normal facade. How Peters is able to portray his inner war between his psychopathic habits and relaxed demeanor in everyday discussions is visibly shown in glimpses of his internal anger shown through his instincts to reach for a bloodied hammer when things don't go his way.

It was insightful to learn more about the victims. It gave a real sense that these people had families and hopes and dreams, and they were not just numbers attributed to the killings of Dahmer. People such as Tony Hughes, a deaf man with a vibrant personality played by Rodney Burford, are given backstories on screen that provide more context to the tragedy of Dahmer’s actions than what most other related media provide.

In a scene where Hughes decides to move to Madison, Wis., his connection with his mother is incredibly moving. The daunting feeling in their conversation that he will inevitably encounter Dahmer lingers throughout their back-and-forth. That being said, sometimes the details and depictions of Dahmer’s actions against his victims are extremely disturbing, and at times make it so that it's difficult to even continue watching.

Fans of Ryan Murphy, and particularly “American Horror Story,” will more easily become accustomed to this show. The show is a great fit for true crime lovers, those seeking more knowledge about Dahmer’s story and anyone wanting to see what all the fuss about Peters’ acting and portrayal is. It is, in all honesty, a very well produced and written show with exceptional acting and scarily realistic depictions.

Overall, “Dahmer” is an impressive show for such an overly exploited story, and it includes intricacy and intense attention to the details of events. The performances are truly raw and emotionally grueling. If you can stomach it, you should watch this gruesome show with the perspective of wanting to learn about the murders and victims, not so much the psyche of Dahmer himself.