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Feature film focuses on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer

Saturday June 22, 2002

MILWAUKEE — David Jacobson, director of an independent feature film about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, says his goal wasn’t to make a slasher movie but to examine what drove Dahmer to commit his crimes. 

“Dahmer: The Mind is a Place of Its Own” portrays Dahmer at the end of his killing spree, with flashbacks to his adolescence to show the isolation that psychologists thought drove him to kill. The fictionalized movie opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles. 

“I didn’t set out to make a sympathetic film — I wanted to understand him and try to see some truly human qualities in him,” Jacobson said. “To just view him as a monster doesn’t help us get any further in stopping people like him.” 

In 1991, Dahmer admitted killing 17 men and boys in Milwaukee, mutilating the victims and cannibalizing some of them. He was convicted of 15 counts of murder in 1992. Two years later, a fellow inmate beat him to death. 

Jacobson said he tried to keep gore in his movie at a minimum. It still shows severed heads wrapped in plastic, and depicts Dahmer drilling into a victim’s skull and sawing a body, but the camera stays on his face in those scenes. 

Jeremy Renner, whose most recent role was a vampire on the WB’s “Angel,” plays Dahmer. “There’s so much to work with there, to have to embody that emotional disturbance,” Renner said. 

The victims in the Peninsula Films movie are composites loosely based on some of Dahmer’s victims. For example, Khamtay (Dion Basco) is based on Konerak Sinthasomphone, one of Dahmer’s last victims. Rodney (Artel Kayaru) is based on Tracy Edwards, who escaped from Dahmer’s apartment with a pair of handcuffs dangling from his wrist and alerted police. 

Tom Jacobson, an attorney who represented the families of 11 victims, said the families “find all publicity objectionable because it triggers the awful memories of what happened.” 

The director said a book by Dahmer’s father, Lionel Dahmer, inspired him to make the movie.