Apr 25, 2012

The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer

When a film begins with a scene of Jeffrey Dahmer driving around in a convertible as if he is some sort of suave gay playboy on the prowl like the fellows in Gregg Araki's The Living End (1992), you know it is going to be a great one. As I soon found out while watching The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer (1993) directed by David R. Bown and starring Carl Crew (Blood Diner, Ironhorse), not only did the flick prove to be an extremely entertaining effort, but also a notably (but unintentionally) gut-busting one as well, as it puts most genuine horror-comedies to shame with its mundane melodrama and bodacious interracial murder and mayhem. Featuring scenes of devilishly dandy Dahmer calling people “Pigs” (as if he is some sort of horror-film-addicted burnout metalhead), crying like a little girl, teasing a deaf Negro, prank calling his mom, turning Asian boys into zombies, sneering at a prankster priest, and many other wonderful things, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer is a delectable work of accidental political incorrectness that is not to be missed. Essentially, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer portrays Dahmer as some sort of ridiculous rebel-with-a- reprehensible-cause that lives in a state of indefinite adolescence and whose belligerent behavior is merely the result of having an estranged mommy and an overbearing daddy. Like angst-driven anti-hero Jim Stark (James Dean) from Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955), the Jeffrey Dahmer of The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer is an uncommonly likeable anti-social rebel who loathes his family just as much as he disrespects the institution of law and order. Also, like Jim Stark, Dahmer has a special talent for attracting weaker social degenerates. Of course, unlike Stark, Dahmer is totally disingenuous in his charm as he is a master of deceit who will tell any lie and put on any front just to achieve his remarkably aberrant aims. In The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, daring Dahmer is as compelling as the most seasoned of carny hucksters yet he has the special natural born advantage of having all-American boyish good looks and a superficially laidback disposition, thus being able to easily deceive and manipulate his prospective victims in a rather unsophisticated manner. Throughout The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, Jeff lures a variety of gay and not-so-gay men to his domestic torture chamber (aka a scarcely furnished efficiency apartment) under the false pretense that he will pay them between $150.00-200.00 in exchange for agreeing to pose nude for a series of Polaroid photographs. Of course, snapping perverted photos is only mere foreplay for dirty Dahmer as he is a more “hands on” kind of guy. Despite physical appearances to the contrary, Dahmer ain’t no uptight wasp, but an active endorser of multiculturalism and die-versity as he lives in a ghetto and loves ridin’ dirty wit his many brothas of different colors. 

  If any part of The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer does the best job of capturing the film's essence as a whole, it is a scene towards the end of the film featuring our brave homicidal homo hero wearing a She-Devils on Wheels (1968) t-shirt as he murders and snaps photographs of his latest victim. Like the exceedingly gratuitous and pointless films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer is a work that features a wealth of tasteless humor and carnal campiness, except to a deeper, mostly unintentional, and ultimately more preposterous degree.  It should also be noted that actor Carl Crew (who also wrote the film's screenplay) previously starred as one of the cannibalistic Tutman brothers in the low-budget horror-comedy Blood Diner (1987); a pseudo-sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis' 'pioneering' gore flick Blood Feast (1963). Indeed, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer features a ‘blood feast’ worthy of a bloodlusting Egyptian goddess, but contained within a seedy slum worthy of two thousand crack-addicted maniacs. Dahmer may live in an apartment full of strong and uppity welfare queens that 'get up in his grill' quite regularly, but his lonely apartment is a distinct lunatic microcosm of his own making, adorned with the scant furnishings of a generic mad man, including abstract skeleton paintings on the walls and a lone kitschy skull on a tabletop. To accommodate the imperative needs of his rapidly decomposing company, Dahmer has a large black barrel containing acid that acts as a substitute room if sorts. Anytime Dahmer wants to grab a quick bite to eat, he merely has to open his freezer, which contains a couple decapitated heads of color and other assorted body parts. When having guests over for dinner, Dahmer never forgets to offer them a mixed drink that he creates with the utmost care, as a lack of hospitality would be most unbecoming for a gentleman of Jeffrey Dahmer’s outstanding caliber. As the viewer soon learns while watching The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, one would be at a loss to find a host as attentive and concerned with the welfare of his guests than Jeffrey Dahmer. When not entertaining the company of prospective lovers, Dahmer is sitting in a chair all by his lonesome making pseudo-deranged faces while staring into eternity as if he was Bela Lugosi's pothead grandson.  To add to the sensory overload that is The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, Carl Crew narrates the film with cheesy and mirthfully cliched lines of reflection that are quite typical of ineptly assembled film noir flicks and made-for-television Lifetime channel movies. With sounds and images such as these, it should be easy see why virtually every second of The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer manages to be nothing short of captivating. 

 When considering the film within the context of the time when it was created, it should come as no surprise that The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer was made under the dubious confines of total secrecy. Initially intended as a theatrical release, the film would be cursed into obscurity as a straight-to-video release. Somewhat fittingly, while in prison, Dahmer was violently bludgeoned to death with a broom handle by a racist black man suffering from a messianic complex only a year or so after the release of The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer. Indubitably, in a audacious display of profoundly bad taste, the film concludes with a memorial list of Dahmer’s various victims. It is quite apparent while watching The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer that it was assembled in a hurried manner so as to monopolize on Dahmer’s newfound infamy using cinematic conventions that have more in common with satirical horror-comedies like The Undertaker and His Pals (1966) and the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis than what one would expect from a typical true crime docudrama. Thankfully (but unsurprisingly), The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer was not the last film to offend the families of Dahmer’s victims. In 2002, the American Jeffrey Dahmer biopic Dahmer starring Jeremy Renner was released. Unlike The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, Dahmer is overly empathetic towards its necrophiliac/cannibalistic subject and portrayals Dahmer as a victim of his authoritarian father’s homophobic tyranny. Lady auteur Kathryn Bigelow was so impressed with Renner’s performance as Dahmer in Dahmer that she decided to cast him as the lead of her Academy Award nominated and six-time Oscar award winning film The Hurt Locker (2008). Needless to say, Carl Crew’s performance as a ‘dashing’ Jeffrey Dahmer in The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer is less than Oscar worthy, but he does bring a certain exceptional anti-social charisma to the role that may have led some audiences from 1993 to believe that one day, like Charles Manson, the self-loathing homo-cidal serial killer would become a cult hero of sorts for disaffected gay youth.  Considering that abnormal Aryan auteur Jörg Buttgereit always opens his films with serious quotes from popular American serial killers, I think he might want to consider making Jeffrey Dahmer the central subject of a potential third Nekromantik film. Although Jeffrey Dahmer is still mostly regarded as the archetype for all things both evil and degenerate, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer has, rightfully, gone on to obtain a marginal, but vocal cult following. As someone who had the novel honor of being told as a child that I had a strikingly resemblance to a young Jeffrey Dahmer, a film like The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer holds a special place in my heart. 

-Ty E

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was 13-15 me and a friend watched this movie damn near every other day while smoking weed and laughing our asses off. We started our first band with a song about Dahmer based off this movie including our favorite line "mmm you practically read my mind... Irish coffee, perfect for a cold winters night". I love this fucking movie, I've been on the lookout for a DVD copy for a long time but with no luck. Good review.