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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Raising Jeffrey Dahmer
Raising Jeffrey Dahmer
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // June 24, 2008
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted July 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Everyone knows the story of Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious mid-western serial killer/boy next door who had a taste for strange sex and human flesh. From his arrest in 1991 to the present day he's remained a fascinating figure, particularly if you're interested in the annals of true crime or the history of serial killers. It's sad then that Rich Ambler's Raising Jeffrey Dahmer, a film that looks at his unusual case from the perspective of those who brought him into this world, falls a little too flat.

The bulk of the story is told from the perspective of Lionel Dahmer (Scott Cordes), Jeffrey's father, but we also see things from the point of view of his stepmother, Sheri (Cathy Barnett). From their take, we take a look at what went wrong with the young Dahmer before it all hit the fan and he started killing people. The film examines his younger days at home, his family life, his social life, and attempts to piece together what makes someone like Jeffrey Dahmer (played by Rusty Sneary) do what he did.

Dahmer talks to the authorities about what he did and we're allowed to flash back to certain key events in his life that may (or may not) explain his behavior a bit but the film skips around quite a bit as far as its timeline is concerned and it isn't too difficult to get confused. This tends to happen in stages for some reason and it hurts the structure of the film quite a bit. A more linear approach probably would have helped the film immensely.

As far as the performances are concerned, there's not too much to get excited about here. While no one stands out as completely awful, neither does anyone stand out as particularly remarkable either. Cordes brings some interesting nuances to his take on Jeffrey Dahmer but doesn't quite have a strong enough physical resemblance to make the role work all that well. Scott Cordes makes for a fairly sympathetic lead and he carries the film well enough, but he isn't support by enough to help the picture all that much.

On saving grace for the film, however, is the presence of the inimitable Bo Svenson, who is cast here as Detective Amos. Svenson may not have the same kind of career as he did in the seventies where he played Buford T. Pusser in the Walking Tall sequels and television series and starred in action films like The Inglorious Bastards and Breaking Point, but the man still has some palpable screen presence. He makes for a very welcome addition to the cast and one can't help but leave the picture thinking that maybe he was underused just a bit.

In the end, Raising Jeffrey Dahmer is, unfortunately, a misfire. It's heart is definitely in the right place and you've got to give the writer and director credit for attempting to explore a serial killer's life through the eyes of his parents - a unique and very worthy concept. Hampered by a low budget, some awkward acting and unappealing visuals, however, this one just doesn't work as well as it needed to.

The DVD

Video:

Raising Jeffrey Dahmer arrives on DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sadly interlaced. The image shows some grain and noise but these are mild issues. There are definitely some issues with softness and muddy detail levels throughout the movie, however, and a lot of the picture looks like it's been intentionally bleached out resulting in a pretty bright image. A few mild compression artifacts creep into the darker scenes but color reproduction looks reasonably accurate and there aren't any serious problems with edge enhancement or alising to discuss.

Sound:

The sole Audio option is supplied in English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in Spanish only. English closed captioning is also available. The 2.0 track sounds pretty good for the most part. The dialogue is always audible, though a few scenes are a little soft sounding. The score sounds nice and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about at all. A 5.1 mix might have been neat for some of the more intense scenes but these are few and far between and overall the 2.0 track gets things done without even breaking a sweat.

Extras:

The only substantial supplement on this disc is a commentary track from the director, Rich Ambler. This is a moderately interesting track that covers the origins of the project, some of the research that went into it, and what his intent was with making this picture in the first place. Along with that, we also get typical commentary information like where the film was shot, who did what, and why they were picked to do it. Unfortunately, there are long stretches where Ambler has nothing to say, resulting in some unnecessary awkward silence. Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Lionsgate DVD releases, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Raising Jeffrey Dahmer is more interesting as an idea than it is as an actual film. Flawed, despite a few memorable moments, the picture fails to really take off and winds up missing the board. Lionsgate hasn't done enough with the presentation to make up for the picture's shortcomings and unless you're a serial killer/true crime buff, you can skip this one.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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