TV Review – Monster : The Jeffrey Dahmer Story :

Firstly, some people have been attacking film maker Ryan Murphy online for ‘glorifying’ Jeffrey Dahmer or benefitting from the crimes for the sake of entertainment. Monster does not do this, hell it is called Monster for Christ’s sake and it is ironic that people praised Murphy for American Horror Story, which used many real serial killer tropes as influences but now that he is using the facts, it is something to tear down. I find this amusing as Murphy also directed Eat Pray Love, which I’m guessing these placard wavers were the main audience for. As I always do when talking about dark things, I give the chair to Richey James Edwards, talking about censorship “Some people can’t read American Psycho, I can’t watch sport.”. No one is going into this series expecting hearts and flowers. Okay, there are a few hearts. Oh, there I go losing the Conservative audience…

When I was a teen, I hoovered up every serial killer biography I could find, Bundy, Gacy, Gein, I knew the motives and the shocking crimes of them all. It was a youthful interest in sociology, but I always veered onto the dark side of the subject. Then the Jeffrey Dahmer case happened. It was the big case from my own time and I followed it religiously. Bought National Enquirer (the only publication I could get in the UK covering the case in depth) for all the latest ‘news’ (N.E., remember?) and then bought every major book on the case. I guess the strangest thing about this case, and by strange I mean not strange at all, was how normal Dahmer was. We like to see killers as disgusting monsters, doing all sorts of terrible things outside of the killing, which led them to this place. Not the case with Dahmer, he had a relatively normal childhood, a father who always encouraged him and got involved in his interests and how ever many times he screwed up, he was nurtured and supported. So why did he kill? Like Nilsen before him, he just didn’t want people to leave. Or ‘Killing For Company’ as the famous Nilsen book puts it.

The first thing to say about Monster : The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is how, despite what you might have heard from the internet trolls, is how non-exploitative it is. It is not trying to shine a light on Dahmer, not make an icon out of him, just telling the story. And mostly, even if it is at the expense of the tension and perfection of other scenes, from the perspectives of those around the case, families and victims, all are given time and space of their own rather than just being ‘the next slaughter’.

The second thing to say is that Evan Peters is absolutely stunning here, unrecognisable from his X-Men (how I know him) look, so close to the original that there were scenes that I thought were just TV footage of Dahmer that I had seen before. He has the look, which sure you can get from wardrobe and make-up, but he also has the mannerisms, little actions, eye movements, his performance throughout is absolutely stunning and if he does not win every TV award next year for his breathtaking work here, then that will be worth more internet hate than all the empty voices screaming about this series.

Equally worthy of praise is character actor Richard Jenkins, who shines as Dahmer’s father. There are moments when he seems unsympathetic but these are always matched later on with scenes of him loving his son, even when he knows what has happened. Riveting performance throughout, there is even a whole episode that focusses on his guilt and frustrations and horror as he looks for answers when there are none. Stunning.

Downsides? And I am trying to not spoiler anything here, but the first one is that I feel this whole series could have been polished off in 6 episodes, make it razor-sharp, sure it would have been darker, but I do not watch a series called Monster to spend an hour with a deaf guy having dinner with his family and talking about his future. That episode I nearly skipped about ten minutes in, but I was worried I would miss something. Man, that character (yes, I know he is a real person, I’m not great with empathy, ok?) is so annoying that I wanted to reach into the TV screen and whack him myself. For fairness, my friend Lindsey who I discussed the series with today absolutely adored him and said that was her favourite episode, so I dunno. There is also a prison character that the show seems to try and veer us towards, almost as if he is an avenging angel, but for those who don’t know the real story, he was in jail for shooting a guy in the head, so whatever you feel about Dahmer, this guy was no saint, even though I felt that was how he was painted here.

The positives of Monster : The Jeffrey Dahmer Story definitely outweigh the negatives and I am sure that if this was a six episode show, I would be hoovering up all the extras that currently form the main season. It’s worth it for the incredible performances, grab yourself a meat sandwich while watching…too soon?

Monster is available now on Netflix

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