My Friend Dahmer (4 stars)

My Friend Dahmer

Ross Lynch makes an uncanny Jeffrey Dahmer in this snapshot of the serial killer's younger years

Prolific serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his first victim, Steven Mark Hicks, mere weeks after his high school graduation in the summer of 1978. He bludgeoned the 18-year-old hitchhiker to death and scattered his bones in the woodland behind his family home in Bath, Ohio.

Writer-director Marc Meyers tells Dahmer's story up until this point, and turns it into a fascinating teen movie – a portrait of a serial killer coming of age. It's based on the award-winning 2012 graphic novel by John 'Derf' Backderf, who struck up a brief friendship with Dahmer at school in the 1970s.

Former Disney star and R5 lead vocalist Ross Lynch is almost unrecognisable in the lead role, as he adopts the awkward gait and facial expressions of Dahmer with uncanny accuracy. Alex Wolff as Backderf – a then aspiring comic book artist, who enjoyed Dahmer's class-clown antics – nails how teenage curiosity can turn into cruelty. Their friendship evolves into something nastily exploitative, as Backderf encourages Dahmer to act out and play pranks for his own amusement.

Meyers drums up a sympathetic and regretful tone through the character of Backderf, but there's also a gradual build up of menace and fear – which culminates in a terrifying episode between the two. The decision to shoot this scene on the grounds of Dahmer's real childhood home adds to the disturbing ambience.

This is a snapshot of a moment in time and Meyers captures the weirdness of the teen experience, as kids make formative bonds with people they don't really know. Beneath all the goofing around, Dahmer was drinking hard liquor for breakfast, neglected by his family and collecting road-kill to 'see what they look like inside'. Meyers marks the dawn of Dahmer's charismatic, highly manipulative and ultimately murderous persona to chilling effect.

Selected release from Fri 1 Jun.

My Friend Dahmer

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 47min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Marc Meyers
  • Cast: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche

Awkward teen Jeffrey Dahmer (Lynch) is befriended by an aspiring comic book artist, John (Wolff), but John learns that his new friend has … issues. Based on an award-winning graphic memoir; Lynch is uncanny as Dahmer and it’s a chilling and unsettling portrayal of the early life of a serial killer.