DVD Review: THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER from Intervision
Not to be overshadowed by the THINGS release, Intervision's other new DVD this week, THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER, is a must-see for those with any passing interest in how real-life serial killers are portrayed on screen. Filmed after his imprisonment and before he was murdered two years into his life sentence, this film chronicles Dahmer's life from first kill to capture. Director David R. Bowen and star Carl Crew keep things accurate and unsettlingly clinical. Narrated by Crew, the killer's voice in constantly in the viewer's head and, whereas this type of voice over work is used too often as a crutch, it becomes extremely effective in keeping the viewer connected directly to the Dahmer.
It's a low-budget affair, sets are sparse, effects are effective and not flashy. There is some repetitiveness to the film, once Dahmer moves out of his grandmother's house where he completed his first kill into his own apartment, he entered his real spree period and there's a long cycle in the film of him luring men to his home with the promise of money in return for posing for pictures, then killing, then repeating. In a strict narrative sense, this is weak but it's a testament to Bowen and Crew's determination to stick closely to the facts and their ideas about Dahmer's drive to kill that this device comes off as an effective way of wearing down the audience. It's a dream-like lull into the world of serial-murder- it's extremely unsettling and quite unique in the world of serial killer based films.
The lone feature on this disc is an audio commentary with Director David R. Bowen and Star Carl Crew and it contains a wealth of information about the film, from idea to completion. The lack of features shouldn't be a put-off here, though. Because the film is so straight-forward, so non-exploitative, the only companion necessary (outside of any curiosity-satiating that will be well-handled by the commentary) will be some reading you can do on countless websites across the web. Just for portraying a shocking piece of American history in a mature way, THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER is easy to recommend. It ends up being the most grounded release so far in the Intervision catalog, showing the company is interested in being a well-rounded genre-fringe powerhouse.