Jeremy Renner’s Jeffrey Dahmer

Years before becoming an Avenger, actor Jeremy Renner played notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in David Jacobson’s unsettling Dahmer. Based on the demented killer’s true crimes, the uneven psychodrama explores Dahmer’s twisted life.

The young Renner inhabits the role with an eerie precision and absorbing power, humanizing the despicable man. Jacobson’s Dahmer plays better as a showcase for Renner’s talent than a fully realized dissection of the killer’s life and horrifying crimes.

Dahmer mostly avoids explicit gore and grisly violence, odd for a serial killer known for dismembering his victims and storing the parts in his kitchen before eating them.

… Jeremy Renner’s performance is the primary reason for catching Dahmer

The focus for Dahmer is how a mundane factory worker set his sights on prey and often lured them home under false pretenses. Dahmer mostly went after young homosexual men as victims.

The ambitious-but-flawed narrative slips in and out of Dahmer’s murders before capture, creatively dramatizing the young Dahmer’s conflict with his demanding father played by Bruce Davison. It’s a small but essential role that should have been expanded.

There are no easy answers in Dahmer. Renner’s portrayal paints him as a functioning but disturbed individual with nasty predilections from an early age. Most of the plot’s dynamic energy comes from the awkward predator stalking his prey and bringing them home. Jeffrey befriends Rodney and it’s difficult determining if he’s looking for a friend, or his next victim.

Meandering and occasionally drift-less in story, Jeremy Renner’s performance is the primary reason for catching Dahmer. Not really a thriller and not really a graphic true crime account of the murders, Jacobson the writer lets down Jacobson the director.

There’s a great movie out there waiting to be made about Jeffrey Dahmer but this isn’t it. The low-budget drama has a raw, unpolished edge that sometimes works out and sometimes doesn’t.

Video

MVD claims in its press materials that Dahmer uses a new 4K transfer struck from the original camera negative, supervised by director David Jacobson. If true, the negative is in rather poor condition and hasn’t seen an extensive restoration. Notable film damage is visible in a couple scenes, which is unusual for a film made in 2002.

Presented in the movie’s proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time, video quality is satisfactory but not revelatory. The unfiltered film transfer has adequate texture and detail for 1080P resolution. It’s a massive upgrade over First Look’s terrible DVD transfer. No one should confuse Dahmer looking anything more than decent in HD.

MVD bestows a strong AVC encode for Dahmer which transparently renders the movie’s thick patina of grain. The main feature runs 102 minutes on a BD-50 at fine parameters. Some shadow delineation is crushed. Cinematographer Chris Manley plays with color saturation and static shots favoring stronger compositions.

Audio

Monaural 2.0 PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio choices are the soundtrack options. There’s an immediacy and clean presence offered by the PCM audio that’s not necessarily felt in the slightly more expansive surround mix. The low-budget Dahmer offers intelligible dialogue and serviceable musical fidelity without a huge soundstage.

A few choice scenes have more palpable surround activity. The sound design is adequate, lacking the intense realism of larger studio films. Largely everything is laid out across the front soundstage in modest depth and separation.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a yellow font.

Extras

Part of MVD’s Marquee Collection, Dahmer brings over all the available special features taken from the original First Look DVD and even a few new ones. Arriving with a slipcover, the disc is coded for all regions.

The original North American DVD release was a dreadful affair with no surround audio and a butchered transfer. MVD’s Blu-ray represents a huge A/V upgrade over it.

Audio commentary by director David Jacobson and actors Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayaru – A casual group commentary recorded when the movie first hit home video back in the 2000s, Jacobson discusses how he approached the legend and mystery of Dahmer’s personality and crimes. Each participant adds something different. Renner discusses his attempts to play Dahmer as a regular person and not a cold-blooded monster.

“The Mind Is A Place Of Its Own” featurette (16:17 in SD) – A making-of featurette taken from the DVD that offers comments from the director, editor, producer, cinematographer and lead cast members Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayaru. The project’s genesis and background is covered. Each subject discusses their contributions and anecdotes from production.

Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (HD) – 29 images

Story Boards Gallery (HD) – Seven storyboard pages that unfortunately are hard to make it out due to their size.

Dahmer Theatrical Trailer (01:55 in HD)

Dahmer Red Band Trailer (02:13 in SD)

MVD TrailersEye See You, Possession, Shade, Sukiyaki Western Django

Full disclosure: The Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Dahmer
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A young Jeremy Renner gives a powerful performance as the psychotic Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most notorious serial killers.

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The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 25 Dahmer screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 100 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.