IFC Films

The Jeffery Dahmer Files

Director

Chris James Thompson

cinematography

Michael Vollmann

Editor

Chris James Thompson

PRODUCERS

Barry Poltermann

Chris Smith

Jack Turner

PREMIERE

South by Southwest Film Festival

YEAR

2012

In the summer of 1991 Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee and sentenced to 957 years in prison for killing 17 people and dismembering their bodies. Through the use of archival footage and interviews with the local medical examiner, police detective, and Dahmer's neighbors, this documentary explores the ordinary man behind the horrifying acts.

Viewing the crimes of its subject from three wildly different — yet equally intimate — perspectives The Jeffrey Dahmer Files compellingly illuminates how the monsters among us leave more than corpses in their wake.

Yet this skin-crawling documentary from Chris James Thompson achieves most of its power from restraint. Refusing to sensationalize Dahmer’s multiple killings and grisly experiments with dead flesh, Mr. Thompson zeros in instead on his 1991 arrest and interrogation. As though responding to a single, unspoken question -- How did the Dahmer case affect you? -- the film's interviewees unearth a trove of macabre memories, all laced with the kind of spicy details that turn cold news into immediate horror.

Those details are at their most gruesome in the testimony of the Milwaukee medical examiner who worked to identify the decomposing evidence in Dahmer’s one-bedroom apartment. Possibly even more chilling are the recollections of the killer’s onetime neighbor, who reminisces about the friendly young man who gave her a sandwich whose possible contents still make her squirm.

But if the film has a star it’s the disarmingly candid Patrick Kennedy, the homicide detective who winkled out Dahmer’s confession. Willingly copping to the ego-stroking limelight of the case despite its ruinous effect on his personal life, Mr. Kennedy lights up his scenes with an openness and empathy that only underscore his prisoner’s twisted introversion.

Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times