The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012)

jeffrey dahmer files poster 2012 movie documentary
7.5 Overall Score

Interesting blend of footage

Wish there was a bit more substance including more neighbors

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Studio:  IFC Films

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  March 10, 2012 (SXSW Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Great castling as the Jeffrey substitute

On July 22, 1991, Milwaukee police arrested a man named Jeffrey Dahmer in a low-rent apartment building.  What they uncovered was horror beyond their belief.  Here the arresting officers, his neighbors, and Dahmer himself tell the tale of the arrest and what followed it.

Directed by Chris James Thompson, The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (originally released on film festival tours simply as Jeff) is part documentary and part dramatic recreation.  The film was released to mostly average to positive reviews.

The study of serial killers is a strange thing.  Some say it is sick, some say it is insulting to the victims, and some say it is important to understanding how psychology and the environment can shape a person or how a person can be “born evil”.  The Jeffrey Dahmer Files really doesn’t answer these questions, but it gives a solid look at a single extreme case and lets the viewer make their own call.


Serial killers have neighbors

The movie follows a strange format.  It is mostly composed of interviews with police detective Patrick Kennedy, a former neighbor Pamela Bass, and medical examiner Jeffrey Jentzen.  These interviews are mixed with footage of Andrew Swant as Jeffrey Dahmer recreating events surrounding the arrest.  No murders are portrayed and no real evidence is shown outside of what was seen on the news…despite this, the film is creepy.

The story parts of the film really work.  They are basic, and show Jeffrey in his day to day life.  It shows Jeffrey Dahmer subdued, cool, calm, and collected as he gathers things like barrels for his victims and chemicals.  It shows how you could be walking down the street (or riding the bus) with someone like him without even knowing it.

This is further enforced by Dahmer’s neighbor who talks about getting to know “Jeff” and being in his life.  It also shows the horror with the hurt he put the people he was friendly with through by bringing hell down upon them when he was captured.  The realization for neighbors of what was occurring right next door to a person…plus the forever linger question of what Jeffrey might have made them do.


Admits being sad when Jeffrey Dahmer was killed

The detective in the case also shows how Jeffrey Dahmer could be charming.  He reveals how he talked to him and seemed to genuinely like him.  This conundrum between the investigator is explored and he even admits that he doesn’t understand it (interestingly enough Patrick Kennedy died not long after the film was released).

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (I prefer the title Jeff) might not be real horror, but it is a scary study of a serial killer.  The film is very subdued and not as graphic as you might expect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t less scary or horrific.

Related Links:

My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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