By Maia Venuti
Netflix released its newest true crime flick on Sept. 21, a retelling of the story of serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, titled “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”
Created by Ryan Murphy (creator of “Glee,” “Pose,” and “American Horror Story”) and starring Evan Peters as Dahmer, the ten episode series gives the viewer an up close and personal look into Dahmer’s life, his victims and the police system that allowed him to get away for so long.
As someone with an interest in true crime, I already know a lot about Jeffrey Dahmer, having listened to many podcasts and reading about the case for several years now. Prior to watching the new series, I had thought most of the information would be things I already knew and that the show was going to be mediocre at best, like all of the other true crime reenactment shows out there. I could not have been more wrong.
This show was, for lack of a better word, traumatizing. I can’t remember the last time I watched something that was so deeply upsetting, frustrating and gut wrenching.
This series was truly a horrific experience for me, and had I not been watching it for the purposes of this review, I would have turned it off after the second episode. There was so much of a focus on the violence of his crimes, and while this is a true crime reenactment and these events are important in telling the full story, there was no need to continuously see that much of it. The violent reenactments of the victims murders has sparked outrage amongst family members, with many of them saying the series retraumatized them.
Arguably, one of the most upsetting scenes in the series was when Rita Isbell, the sister of Errol Lindsey, gave her victim impact statement after the trial. Her impact statement was incredibly emotional, with her exhibiting her anger and hatred for Dahmer. The series, without Isbell’s permission, took this incredibly raw and emotional moment of confrontation and recreated it for entertainment purposes. Not only did they recreate it, but they made a shot-for-shot remake of it, almost identical to the original impact statement she made. This really upset Isbell, and she spoke out and stated that no one asked for her permission to put her impact statement in the series. To me, this shows that the series cared more about telling the most shocking and unbelievable story and forgot the very real victims behind the story.
The casting for this series was absolutely impeccable. Ryan Murphy has made several true story reenactments in the past, such as a retelling of OJ Simpson’s story, as well as the murder of Gianni Versace, so he is no stranger to historically accurate casting. With true story reenactments, one of the most important details is the casting, as it is the first impression audiences will get of the show. Seeing an actor who looks nothing like the person they’re supposed to be portraying completely takes a person out of the viewing experience. But I cannot say that about Dahmer, and I think if anything, the casting was too good. Evan Peters’ performance as Dahmer was terrific and terrifying all at the same time. He did a phenomenal job with what he was given, and I think if there is one thing Evan Peters will do well, it is a terrifying serial killer role.
While the series was incredibly gratuitous in its violence and made that the focal point of most episodes, the series also showed the negligent Milwaukee police department that allowed Dahmer to get away for so long. It showed how the police gave one of Dahmer’s victims, fourteen-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, back to Dahmer despite protests from bystanders who had a feeling Dahmer was lying. The series shows the homophobia and racism of the Milwaukee police department that allowed for this to happen, as well as allow for the murders of numerous gay Black and Brown men to slide under the radar.
I think when talking about true crime, the police are often depicted as the “good guys” who were working tirelessly to get the killer off the streets. However, with Dahmer, this was not the case, and it’s important to show that the police did not prioritize this situation as it was going on.
I personally would not recommend this series to anyone. It is really upsetting, unnecessarily gorey, and its existence alone has caused a lot of pain for the families involved. In theory, these true crime reenactments are a good idea, but in execution are far too damaging and do far more harm than good.