Dahmer (film)

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Original movie poster
Directed byDavid Jacobson
Produced byLarry Ratner
Written byDavid Jacobson
StarringJeremy Renner
Bruce Davison
Artel Kayàru
Matt Newton
Music byChristina Agamanolis
Mariana Bernoski
Willow Williamson
CinematographyChris Manley
Edited byBipasha Shom
Blockbuster Films
DEJ Productions
Two Left Shoes Films
Distributed byPeninsula Films
Release date
  • June 21, 2002 (2002-06-21)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$144,008[1]

Dahmer is a 2002 American biographical true-crime horror film directed by David Jacobson, and starring Jeremy Renner as the American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, a recluse in Wisconsin who murdered 17 men.

There are two timelines in the film. The "present" runs in ordinary chronological order covering the period of one-to-two days; the flashbacks are in reverse order, as Dahmer is seen as successively younger until the film arrives at his first murder and its aftermath.


Jeffrey Dahmer (Jeremy Renner) is a shy and socially awkward man in metropolitan Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Troubled by a turbulent childhood and his religious father's denial of his homosexuality, Dahmer begins luring attractive young men to his home, where he conducts experiments on his victims before he murders them, trying to create a living zombie.

Flashback to Dahmer's earlier life reveal that he killed one man this way in Bath, Ohio when he was a teenager. They also reveal his troubled relationship with his father, and Jeffrey's alcoholism. In the present, he rationalizes his crimes in Milwaukee over the divorce of his parents and his emotionally isolated childhood; nevertheless, he is unable to stop inviting more and more young men from bars and clubs to his home, where he successively rapes and kills them.

Jeffrey meets a young man named Rodney and invites him to his house with plans of murdering him, but as the night goes on and the conversations get more personal Jeffrey is faced with an emotional crisis. Rodney confesses his romantic feelings for Jeffrey, but finds him evasive. During the course of their evening together, Jeffrey strangles him with a belt until he loses consciousness; however, Rodney survives, and escapes the apartment. The film ends with a flashback to Jeffrey as a teenager, riding in a car with his father on the way to a therapy session, cross-cut with a scene in which he dissects one of his victims on his bed.


The real-life counterpart to the fictional victim is in parentheses


Although the script recreates actual events, the names are changed out of respect for Dahmer's victims. In reality, the escapee who led to Dahmer's capture was Tracy Edwards, portrayed by Artel Kayàru as Rodney, and Dahmer's first victim was Stephen Hicks, portrayed in the film by Matt Newton as Lance Bell. Production took place in Los Angeles, with one scene in Milwaukee. The mask special effects were created by Christien Tinsley and Kelley Mitchell, who were involved two years later in the makeup for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.


Box office[edit]

Dahmer began a limited release in the United States on June 21, 2002, opening in two theaters and grossing $16,093 during its first weekend.[1] The film later expanded its release to five theaters, and remained in theatrical distribution for 27 weeks.[1] By the conclusion of its run, it had grossed a total of $144,008 domestically.[1]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 69% based on reviews from 39 critics.[2] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 18 critics.[3]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, praising Renner's performance and the supporting roles, but saying the film "falls headlong into the trap of imagining that it can somehow rationalize the monstrous."[4] Carla Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a middling review, writing, "Filmmaker David Jacobson doesn't seem to know where to go with his version. He approaches crass exploitation by juxtaposing scenes of carnage with shots of chocolate spilling into a vat (Dahmer worked in a candy factory). Other moments carry real suspense and emotional weight."[5] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly praised Renner's performance, stating that he "imbues Jeffrey Dahmer with a very solemn desolation that looks just enough like ”normal” pain to let you in on the way that this repressed, lonely freak could pass himself off as just another sad-eyed outcast."[6]

Shawn Levy of The Oregonian gave the film a positive review, noting, "Writer-director David Jacobson and his star, Jeremy Renner, have made a remarkable film that explores the monster's psychology not in order to excuse him but rather to demonstrate that his pathology evolved from human impulses that grew hideously twisted."[7]


Institution Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Independent Spirit Awards Best Male Lead Jeremy Renner Nominated [8]
Best Newcomer Artel Kayàru Nominated
John Cassavetes Award David Jacobson Nominated


Kathryn Bigelow said that she cast Renner in The Hurt Locker because of his performance in Dahmer.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Dahmer". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  2. ^ Dahmer at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ "Dahmer". Metacritic.
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 21, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Trying to Make Sense of the Irrational". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  5. ^ Meyer, Carla (July 12, 2002). "Lukewarm attempt to explain serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 10, 2002). "Dahmer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  7. ^ Levy, Shawn (September 6, 2002). "Review: "Dahmer"". The Oregonian. p. 21.
  8. ^ "2003 IFP Independent Spirit Award Nominations". IndieWire. December 11, 2002. Archived from the original on February 27, 2020.
  9. ^ "Jeremy Renner, Breakout Star Of 'The Hurt Locker'". NPR. February 24, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2016.

External links[edit]