The Reel Review
Evan Peters stars in this Netflix crime series from Ryan Murphy about notorious Milwaukee serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and dismembered 17 young men and boys – his first in 1978, and the rest from 1987 to 1991. It chronicles Dahmer’s life and death and touches on the shocking police incompetence, racism and homophobia that allowed Dahmer to kill so many underprivileged gay men of color.
Due to its shockingly gruesome and lurid details, Dahmer’s story, on its own, is a fascinating one. Murphy’s now typical excellent production design deftly captures the time period, and the story is a mostly accurate representation of actual events, despite a disjointed screenplay from different writers that makes the first five episodes feel like a completely different series from the last five.
Peters is chillingly good as Dahmer, with Niecy Nash (Reno 911) exceptional as heroic neighbor Glenda Cleveland, whose repeated complaints about Dahmer to police were routinely ignored. The strong supporting cast includes Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Penelope Ann Miller (Kindergarten Cop), Michael Learned (The Waltons) and Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club).
But as interesting as Dahmer’s actual story is, a more chronological tell, rather than the jarring and even confusing time jumps, would have more effectively illustrated Dahmer’s steady downward spiral as a serial killer with an increasingly gruesome appetite for cannibalism, necrophilia and preserving the body parts of his victims. The bizarre, unnecessary inclusions of subplots about serial killers Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy gives the bloated, way-too-long series an unnecessarily lurid and icky, exploitive feel. Still, just because this is the most comprehensive telling of the Dahmer story to date, it is worth watching.
• Jeffrey Dahmer’s grandmother Catherine died in 1992 at the age of 88, ten months after Dahmer’s conviction and sentencing.
• Ryan Murphy has previously worked with Evan Peters on multiple seasons of American Horror Story, Niecy Nash on Screen Queens and Richard Jenkins in the 2010 film Eat, Pray, Love.
• Following Jeffrey Dahmer’s notoriety, his younger brother David severed contact with him and changed his name. His whereabouts are unknown. Dahmer’s mother Joyce died of breast cancer in 2000. His father and stepmother live in Ohio.