The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Jeffrey Dahmer has been a part of the serial killer forefront for many years ever since his arrest in 1991. He started killing in the serial killer era which lasted from the 1970s to the late 1990s. People find the weird and disturbing so interesting and intriguing, that many films, documentaries, or docuseries have been made about serial killers, murders, and anything true crime. This is no different for Jeffrey Dahmer, who appears in media a lot including song lyrics like those from Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” Dahmer is extremely famous for his heinous crimes and a new crime TV series called Monster: A Jeffrey Dahmer Story starring Evan Peters has been released on Netflix. This once again started the buzz around Jeffrey Dahmer and his life. In this review, I will be examining five categories: Accuracy of Jeffrey Dahmer and the events, the accuracy of the set design/costumes/music to the time period, cinematography, quality of acting/how much the actors look like their character, and finally comparing this series to previous media about Jeffrey Dahmer, because it has been done so much. What makes this series different? What makes it new beyond the level that Evan Peters, a popular actor from American Horror Story, is starring in it? What makes this stand out?
1. accuracy of jeffrey dahmers story
This series has so many things to unpack because of the length and depth the directors went into. The only inaccuracies I came across go as follows: 7 skulls were found inside of the apartment, not 5 which was what was stated. He also only took home a vile of blood not 3 bags of it. When it came to overdramatization, this show was pretty good at showing the raw emotions without fluffing it up. The only story that might have been over-dramaticized is the state fair scenes, some reports say Jeffrey Dahmer was masturbating and some say he was just peeing, his arrest only said indecent exposure. Also when it came to (SPOILER) Jeffrey’s murder, the inmate who killed him was depicted in the film to kill the other inmate first, but in reality, Jeffrey was killed first. The timeline had lined directly up with the actual events (you can refer to murderpedia.org to confirm). Another big issue is the relationship with Tony Hughes…the true story of how he was killed was Jeffrey offered him $50 to take pictures of him and then murdered him. They did know each other for about 2 years by that point, but there was no proven romantic relationship. Besides the Tony aspect, I was extremely impressed with the accuracy of this film, normally films overdramatize events like this or they are in a more formal documentary style that only has facts and reports, not reenactments. 7/10 for accuracy.
2. Accuracy of time period (Clothing/Set design/music)
The music for this show was extremely on point as it all had either come out previously or came out the year that the scenes were set in. For example ‘Sunshine Sunshine’ was one of the first songs in the series, representing Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood in the year 1966 which is when that song came out. There are many more examples from the music that was correct, but for sake of time I will only point out one. Another accurate thing for the time period and Jeffrey Dahmer’s confession were the movies he had turned on which consisted of ‘Exorcism III’ and ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Both of these shown in the film were accurate to the time period being depicted. A few little added things were the mention of Swanson TV Dinners which were a huge hit for families ever since the mid-1950s to the early 2000s. Also, the Budweiser cans and RC designs were extremely accurate for the time period. One thing I did notice is that the Crush cans were not completely accurate but very close to the design of the 1990s which is when they make an appearance. The original house that Jeffrey Dahmer resided in, in Bath, Ohio, was very similar to the one that appeared in the movie which featured classic 1960s furniture design. The apartment design (when he resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is almost identical to his actual apartment in real life. The fish to the plant on a plant stand in front of a window were all placed correctly. However, I believe his bed was moved to the other side in real life. In the film, Evan Peters wore extremely similar clothes to those Jeffrey Dahmer has been pictured in, for example, in his mugshot. Overall when it comes to time period accuracy, 9/10.
This cinematically may not have blown my mind, but I feel like that is an intentional and important aspect of this film. Instead of talking about how beautiful the filmmaking was (and don’t get me wrong it was not mediocre on any level) I was focused more on the story, especially the victims’ families. A lot of times when it comes to TV drama series retelling the lives of serial killers, it can glorify the killer and make the audience feel bad for them. The victim rarely gets attention, but I feel like in this series the director made sure the victims were done right. Even in the end when it followed the victims’ families’ lives after Dahmer went to prison is the extra mile I have not seen in any other films about Dahmer. The tribute to all the victims at the end is also an important aspect. Yes, the cinematography was nothing that left my jaw on the floor, but it was not terrible. Again, I think this was all done on purpose to keep the focus on the story and the victims. 8/10
4. Acting (Quality and Resemblance)
Evan Peters and Jeffrey Dahmer look extremely similar to the way Peters was styled. The costume design for the hair and the glasses were extremely similar. Lionel Dahmer, played by Richard Jenkins, looks extremely similar as well however Jenkin’s face is more square while Dahmers was more circular. I think Niecy Nash did an amazing job acting as Glenda Cleveland, however that being said I don’t think they look similar at all. The only resemblance I can see is in the glasses. And for the worst similarity, Joyce Dahmer looks nothing like Molly Ringwald. Although some characters don’t look alike, the acting throughout the entire film was phenomenal, I felt like I could feel all of the emotions the different characters were going through and empathize. It was extremely raw emotional acting and I was thoroughly impressed. 8.5/10
5. comparison to previous media
‘Monster’ is definitely not the first movie or series to come out about Dahmer…so what makes it different? What makes it better? The most recent film about Jeffrey Dahmer was a movie called My Friend Dahmer which starred Ross Lynch. Compared to Monster: A Jeffrey Dahmer Story, My Friend Dahmer was mostly about Jeffrey’s high school years and time spent in Bath, Ohio. This of course is because My Friend Dahmer was based on someone who knew Jeffrey in high school. Another famous movie called DAHMER came out in 2002, the second focused movie about Jeffrey Dahmer to ever come out. I personally have not seen the film, but according to the IMDb page this story is about “chocolate factory worker Jeffrey Dahmer hunts Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for young attractive males to turn into the unconscious (eventually dead) human sex toys…” So this film sounds like it is about just his later life before he was caught while Monster is about his entire life.
Overall, the public interest in messed-up people will never end so movies about these people will continue to be pushed out. One thing we as a society should focus on is the victims, not glorifying the murderer who caused so much pain for so many people. It makes me sick that people online are only commenting on how hot Evan Peters is versus the actual story and the disgusting person of Jeffrey Dahmer. I did enjoy that in this series I did not feel bad for him, I felt bad for the victims and frustrated with Jeffrey. We all feel alone sometimes but that is not a reason to drill into someone’s head. The only part I did not enjoy was the relationship between Jeffrey Dahmer and Tony Hughes because it was entirely inaccurate and fluffed up for the movie. Besides that, I would say this is my favorite series about Jeffrey Dahmer so far because it puts you in the actual situation and understand the horror that Jeffrey Dahmer was. This format was more interesting than a documentary but also mostly not dramatized for effect (besides the Tony Hughes part). I would give this series an overall 8/10 because it is mostly accurate and does not glorify such a horrible character.