Jeff

Jeff

Directed by: Chris James Thompson
79 minutes

East Coast Premiere


Increasingly, news stories seem populated with bizarre tabloid terror. But behind every lurid headline are the true and compelling stories of the people left behind when the media moves on. Jeffery Dahmer’s story was so astonishing that he remains a boogeyman representing impulses so dark and brutal that few can believe a human is capable of them. Yet, he managed to convince authorities and neighbors for years that nothing was amiss.

Director Chris James Thompson takes a page from the books of the very shows that sensationalized Dahmer’s case by combining interview footage with reenactments. However, rather than recreating the most sensational aspect of the case, he presents it with twist. This footage, inspired by the anecdotes of locals recalling their interactions with him, shows Dahmer quietly and mundanely going about his daily routine—shopping, riding the bus. The truly unsettling thing is how normal he was. Things that might have appeared odd or out of place at the time were brushed off because no one could have conceived of the horrifying truth beneath the pedestrian exterior. Only in retrospect, once Dahmer’s crimes had surfaced, were people able to connect those long forgotten incidents to the unfolding elucidation.

Unlike any previous depiction of Dahmer’s life, Thompson’s film does not try to get into his head or explain his motivation. It provides a voice to those who, in their daily activities, unknowingly brushed up against the devil in plain clothes. We are given an opportunity to see Dahmer as those in Milwaukee saw him: as Jeff.

—Brian Tamm