Dahmer: An American Cannibal – Read the Netflix series review

Dahmer: An American Cannibal – Read the Netflix series review
Dahmer: An American Cannibal – Read the Netflix series review

Ryan Murphy has always said in his interviews that he is artistically drawn to three things: outcasts, horror and optimism. In its adult productions, the horror characters and this declared optimism generated an interesting income in several of the seasons of American Horror Story. Already in Ratched, for example, this recipe goes awry, with a level of optimistic impulse so great that it turns its “villain” into a romantic icon. More often than not, Murphy’s job is to offer those around his story a chance at redemption. But without losing sight of the fact that evil, the real evil, is not amenable to defense.

in the last episode of Dahmer: An American Cannibal, the script starts talking about forgiveness. For those familiar with Murphy’s portfolio, this is not an unexpected move. However, as the discourse begins to leak into the sequences involving Jeffrey Dahmer (Evan Peters), the frame closes in a strange, maladjusted way; which immediately brings us to an inevitable comparison: when he explored Andrew Cunanan’s mind in the excellent season Versace in American Crime Story, the showrunner achieved much more efficient results. Andrew was “explained” not “justified”.

It is very curious to evaluate the seasons Crime Story in retrospect. In the first (with OJ Simpson) and in the third (Impeachment), there was a total distancing of criminals. The focuses were victims or people who were involved in legal proceedings. In the second season – precisely the Versace season – he decided that telling Cunanan’s life backwards would be an ideal way to show that he was not a serial killer but a murderer driven by ego and vanity. In all three seasons there was one big thing in common: they were cultural clippings of the times in which the events took place.

When ACS: Versace was made, Murphy’s statements were pure confirmation. The OJ season was about racism, the Versace season was about homophobia, and the Impeachment season was about feminism. Now in Dahmerit seems that there is a deformed attempt to gather the three topics in a single product, as if the miniseries were an order imposed by the Netflix, who paid millions for Murphy to bring to the platform the prestige that his work at FX had garnered. After years without leaving the bar of average results, it is as if the company had given up; the miniseries arrives half-heartedly in the catalog, without marketing, without much expectation.

Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the most dangerous serial killers in US history. He has appeared before in Murphy’s work, when the screenwriter decided to gather several from this list in an emblematic episode of the season. Hotel in American Horror Story. Every time he was portrayed in fiction, Dahmer was cold, flat, distant. Evan Peters (Murphy’s sire) goes to great lengths to demonstrate minimal layers in an interpretation that demands minimalism. Darren Criss, like Cunanan, had more scope, since not being a serial killer he could go from absolute joy to hate, going through episodes of cynicism, debauchery, seduction and alienation. Peters’ performance is just one more standard the series is forced to live up to; patterns that we can also call – without pejorative – clichés.

From episode one to five the scripts are dedicated to the killer. In this regard, there are all the items that are part of the cliché: the complicated family, the separation of the parents, the decisive paternal relationship, the maternal figure dissolved in mental disorders… your team; this is Dahmer’s story, which is even similar to the stories of other assassins like him; which brings us to an inevitable question: why retell it? For five episodes, the initiative seems inadequate, precisely because the criminal goes to the proscenium, he becomes the star of a plot in which he is the child-victim of a broken home.

When we get to episode six it’s like another miniseries has started. This one, yes, the one that understands its own goals. The script of the sixth episode is dedicated to talking about Tony Hughes, Dahmer’s victim number 12, and does it beautifully. It even recalls the immensely sensitive work of ACS: Versace exploring the lives of Cunanan’s first two victims. From then on, until episode 10, Dahmer is no longer the center of attention and we can see Niecy Nash shining like the neighbor who spent months trying to alert the police without being heard. Even when they turn the camera on Jeffrey’s father and mother – at this point in the season – the emotional result is more effective.

The production is very competent, the membrane of visual quality is solid, but all the time the shadow of lighthearted justification hangs over the miniseries. The five episodes that focus on the victims’ families are better, but the problem is that we’ve already spent the first five brooding over the recurring behavior of an evil that doesn’t need narrative psychological support. Even in the great victim-centric episode, there’s the script making the monster less of a monster through the pangs of abandonment. And it’s as if the producers themselves ignore the fragility of the strategy, because what should be there to shock the audience is, most of the time, hidden. Most acts of violence, attacks, cannibalism are eclipsed or deliberately omitted. On the other hand, in the final stretch, the scripts deem it necessary to “poetize” the outcome of their criminal.

It might not seem like it, but it’s strange that in the last episode the death by lethal injection of Wayne Gacy be interrupted in the edition by Dahmer’s religious baptism. Meanwhile, the script prepares the prisoner who will kill him, showing him in pain, knowing he will be re-convicted, causing once again an African American to be subjugated. Murphy’s intention is to show a black character “taking revenge” on a killer who killed so many of his community. But from the way the series organizes events, it looks like this is just another redemptive victory for the serial killer. It’s almost as if the scene says: “Right now that he was regretting…”.

At the last moment, the production takes its place of “critical work” and the photos of each of the victims appear on the screen, one by one (this is right after the miniseries has already spectacularized a man who kept heads in the fridge). Considering that not all the dead are portrayed in the plot, the feature is annoying. The miniseries is worth the effort, but very little for who the victims are. Unfortunately, they seem dishonored.

Dahmer: An American Cannibal

Closed (2022-2022)

Dahmer: An American Cannibal

Closed (2022-2022)


The article is in Portuguese

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