Yes, it’s THAT Dahmer, and Jeremy Renner, the young actor who plays him, gives a spectacular performance. Renner, with greasy bangs and a stare that might appear oversensitive if it couldn’t stretch a minute into eternal zombie hell time, suggests a spookier Tobey Maguire. He imbues Jeffrey Dahmer with a very solemn desolation that looks just enough like ”normal” pain to let you in on the way that this repressed, lonely freak could pass himself off as just another sad-eyed outcast.
Written and directed by David Jacobson, Dahmer glides between past and present, re-creating Dahmer’s life as a creepy tape loop of guilt, longing, and rage. Much of the time, we’re simply watching him as he hangs out in his dank Milwaukee apartment with a sweetly naive young man (the audacious Artel Kayàru) whom he’d like to sleep with — that is, if Dahmer weren’t completely, pathologically passive. To explain a serial killer is to diminish his madness, but ”Dahmer” does something quietly riveting. It lets you brush up against the humanity of a psycho, without making him any less psycho.