See Through the Eyes of EVIL. “Dahmer” reviewed! (MVDVisual / Blu-ray)

On February 15th, 2992, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted on murder, dismemberment, and sexual offenses on 17 young males.  Before then, Dahmer preyed on the desperate and the unsuspecting males living undisclosed in the then tabooed gay culture between 1978 and 1991.  Drugging, raping, killing, and then sometimes raping his victims posthumously became the Wisconsin serial killer’s unhinged obsession for companionship while working auspiciously as a chocolate factory warehouse worker.  Dahmer’s mind blossoms through the graphic dual prose narrative of events that circle around his lonely existence from a novice outcast drawn to kill to a calculating cold-blooded manhunter with deviant tendencies. 

Jeffrey Dahmer is one of those cerebral oddities you wish had a sight tube or a port hole to gape into and absorb the torrent of deranged thoughts in order to get a better understanding of how a serial killer’s mind functions and rationalizes vice and death as a sustainable life style.  Writer-director David Jacobson attempts to explain that very concept that sordid Dahmer’s visceral vision of the world around him in the 2002 interpretational blend of fact and fiction film, “Dahmer.”  Based on real events with some tweaks to protect the identities of real people, Jacobson’s crime biopic forces the uncomfortable measure of a bedeviled seduction, placing viewers in both the objective and subjective hot seat of Dahmer’s beginnings to his submersed praxis of his warped theoretical longings.  “Dahmer” is a production of a Peninsula Films, Inc., the same production company behind another serial killer biopic, Clive Saunders’ “Gacy,” a year later.

Surrounding the film, it’s been rumored that many actors don’t want anything to do with playing the titular sociopath; perhaps, Dahmer’s past scruples the filling of his size 10 shoes smeared with blood or, perhaps, exploring the dark caverns of his mind was too treacherous to traverse and come out unscathed from a crippling, crestfallen place of trauma.  Then, there’s Jeremy Renner.  Before his fame and fandom from “The Avengers” franchise, even before his breakout role in the pro-cop action blockbuster, SWAT, Jeremy Renner filled those monstrous size 10 shoes in the most quietest of ways, but the Hawkeye star’s skin-crawling version of a notorious killer he eerily takes a resemblance of provided that much more of a tactile insight into Dahmer’s inhuman nature.  Renner carries the film through two stages in Dahmer’s life, one being as an adolescent with homoerotic obsessions and deranged peculiarities whose living with his parents and grandmother while the other is paved by his own hands as an emotionless and manipulative rapist and murderer.  The distinct development is brilliantly illuminated by Renner’s understanding of Dahmer at certain stages of life.  Rounding out “Dahmer’s” cast is a fellow cinematic Marvel comics movie actor in Bruce Davison (“X-Men”) as Dahmer’s father, Lionel, Artel Great whose character is derived from real life Dahmer victim escapee, Tracey Edwards, and with Matt Newton, Dionysio Basco, and the late Kate Williamson adding their supportive performances.

Director David Jacobson didn’t want to explore and exploit the gory side of Jeffrey Dahmer’s tucked away carnage; instead, Jacobson dives into the psyche of Dahmer, molding human emotions around the sociopath who felt inadequate, if not also frightened, of his yearnings that propelled him to do the unspeakable acts of meticulous violence.  “Dahmer” obviously isn’t a true-to-fact biopic, regaling with colorful discourse and captivating with uncomfortable actions as filler to a near Hollywoodize stitching, but Jacobson did sprinkle with truth to fill in the mental gaps with interpretations of Dahmer’s connections with others, from family to victims.  Director of photography, Chris Manley, is able to capture the intensity with contrast lighting between young Dahmer and old Dahmer.  In Dahmer’s young life, the lighting is very natural, very bright, and very normal in a showcase of Dahmer’s mental space and, if we were not already enlightened about the serial killer’s, Dahmer would be just an usual misfit or a closeted homosexual with an obscure inkling to do more malevolency.  Only during scenes of mature Dahmer is the lighting saturated with hazy primary colors of blue, green, yellow, etc. that heighten madness and mark an ominous, dangerous presence inside the gay club or Dahmer’s apartment while everywhere else is in natural lighting.  A good companion piece to “Dahmer” is “My Friend Dahmer” directed by Marc Meyers that sought to visualize High Schooler Jeffrey Dahmer as an outlier spaz who desired attention to the point of making ruckuses in public places with other practical jokers and dived more into his obsession with eviscerating the local wildlife for curiosity and disolving them with his father’s chemistry concoctions, a nice little connective tissue between the two films. Watch Meyers’ “My Friend Dahmer” and Jacobson’s “Dahmer” in said order and while the two films are veritably different in style, each depiction captures a loner at heart with a minacious defense to feel, the very least, something by overpowering-to-death the unsuspecting prey.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s tactics were gruesome, perverse, and unsavory without question, but David Jacobson attempts the impossible of detaching the human from the monster in “Dahmer” that’s now being distributed onto Blu-ray by FilmRise and MVDVisual under their Marquee Collection. The High-Def, 1080p picture is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm negative film. While the upscaling looks fairly well achieved that seizes to put more life into the coloring, especially with those rich colorful shots in Dahmer’s later years, a good portion of 35mm negative sheens through with hairline scratches and the occasional blip of a cigarette burn. The overall delineation renders nicely with little-to-not soft edges and there doesn’t seem to be any cropping or edge enhancing. The English language DTS 5.1 Surround sound is as equally competent with clarity throughout the vocal track. There was too much depth or range to paint a picture, gaining a win by default with the conversing being held in tightly packed rooms or in extreme closeups of conversating duos. The musical score by Christina Agamanolis, Mariana Bernoski, and Willow Williamson haunts mostly like the caressing sounds of viper’s mellifluous tongue with breathy moans, irregular percussions, and a whisking uneasiness tune that sinks its teeth into you. The soundtrack is mixed with some monotonous club beats, doo-wop, and soft and classical alternative rock that include Patsy Cline, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Freddie Cannon. Bonus materials are a little antiquated with a making of featurette from back when the film was closer being first released, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, story boards, a red band and theatrical trailer, and an audio commentary by director David Jacobson and actors Jeremy Renner and Artel Kayaru. “Dahmer” doesn’t need to sell us on the diabolical nature of Jeffrey Dahmer, but what the film does do is formulate a systemic idea of who Dahmer disposes to be, as a loner, as a sufferer, and as a killer, underneath the skin of an average young white male.

Order “Dahmer” on Blu-ray!

When Music Videos Go EVIL! “The Backlot Murders” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red / Blu-ray)


After a night of drinking that ends in breaking a bottle over the bar owner’s head, a struggling and internally conflicted rock band kicks out the cancerously unhinged and troublesome member before their rise to stardom. Unfortunately, all the talent went out door along with the excommunicated band member, forcing the band to impress with an extravagant music video shot on Universal’s iconic backlot, sponsored by their agent and the lead singer’s girlfriend’s music mogul father. Instead of intense pyrotechnics and scantily cladded female groupies dancing on their crotch, the band, their girlfriends, and the crew find themselves caught in the gloomy, labyrinth-like movie lot, housing spooky interior and exterior sets, unaware the lurking murderous manic taking them out one-by-one.

By far a polar opposite polished genre film than the sadistically raw brutal rape and murder extravaganza that was “Chaos,” writer and director David “The Demon” DeFalco dabbles in the early 2000’s revival of the slasher genre with his 2002 released feature “The Backlot Murders” in the wake of the widespread success of the “Scream” franchise. In much of the same way “Chaos” came to fruition derived from “Last House on the Left,” DeFalco, once again, finds inspiration in the form of cult horror director Wes Craven. However, DeFalco strays away from the meta-horror and trope-reversal techniques and replaces it with a satirical façade of the music industry where glam is more important than meaningful substance. The slasher-comedy carves up nods to Van Halen, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, and even Elvis Presley with a horrendously skewed mask version the killer wears. “The Backlot Murders” were co-written by Paul Arensburg and Steven Jay Bernheim with the latter writer serving also as co-producer with DeFalco in association with Dominion Entertainment.

A contributing factor to “Scream’s” success was the diverse in career cast that clicked together as well as twisting archetypical roles into atypical whammy that veered audiences to the edge of their seats. “Scream” shocked audiences with the immediate death of a well-known actress right out of the gate, nabbed “Friends’” star Courteney Cox, “SLC Punk” and “Hackers” actor Matthew Lilliard, teen heartthrob Skeet Urlich, one of the Arquettes with David Arquette, and, perhaps, would have guaranteed Neve Campbell a slab of concrete for the Hollywood Walk of Fame along with an already cemented label as a scream queen and a final girl. The same eclecticism could be transfixed by “The Backlot Murders’” acquisitions but on a more obscure scale with a cast from all walks of life that includes the Roger Rabbit voice actor himself, Charles Fleischer, “Three’s Company” star Priscilla Barnes, 1997’s Playboy Playmate Carrie Stevens, and the late Corey Haim (“The Lost Boys”) as the band’s guitarist in a role that seemed below his fame stature. Most gaps are plugged with interesting characters treated with some backstory buildup that becomes more stagnant than footfall companions in order to get to know them better before their demise, but their persona conductors include Brian Gaskill (“The Bloody Indulgent”), Tom Hallick, Jaime Anstead, Dayton Knoll, Lisa Brucker, Ken Sagoes (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), LoriDawn Messuri, Angela Little, and Tracy Dali.

“The Backlot Murders” didn’t set out to revolutionize the slasher genre, but only relished in the after success and donned a more satire effort that purposefully retreated back into the conventional tropes to form an entertaining run of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll gags, but the one thing missing, and it’s a doozy, is the actual killer presence in the film who is treated as an afterthought of slim importance and chucked into a insignificant plot twist that forces DeFalco’s hand to become a routine hack’n’slash lemming. One positive aspect of “The Backlot Murders” is the extremely high body count that produces a continuous stream of nixing off a slew of characters with their own death scenes inside the renowned confines of a Universal backlot backdrop that’s not only good-humored irony but also a sizeable effort by the Bernheim/DeFalco producing team. Yet, despite the high body count, the kills and gore felt sorely uninspired and underwhelming, rehashing into homage death scenes from “Friday the 13th” and “Scream” with a few forgettable approaches to call its own, until DeFalco breaks the damning goreless streak with a gruesome Columbian necktie effect that goes for the throat. I make “The Backlot Murders” seem unenjoyable and heartless when, in fact, the early 2000 slasher-comedy is immensely funny with a Charles Fleisher gold recorded, laugh track amongst the relentless mocking of the music industry from a far in this true to form slasher accessorized with a high body count kill dozer of a villain.

When things are quiet on set, “The Backlot Murders” evoke the slasher spirit on a new-to-Blu Blu-ray release in the U.S. from Dark Force Entertainment and Code Red with MVDVisual handling distribution. The 1080p, hi-def release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen from a brand new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. The cool contextual colors render nicely amongst the shadowy gloom and foggy backdrop that’s reminiscent of a softly lit late 90’s and early 2000s slasher. The textures are sharper than the Razor Digital DVD release; the tactile feeling of asphalt when a bluish white glow hits the pavement or the gritty backlot sets vibrant with an ominous glow strike powerful chords of a lively presence from the transfer. There doesn’t seem to be any cropping, edge enhancing, or any other manipulation to the transfer present. The English mono track, which leans away from the LFE, has the opposite, lackluster appeal with a single channel blockade that doesn’t project the bands pyrotechnics, the screams of being chased, and settling for limitations on other wide range of girthy resounding audio. However, the dialogue is clear, unobstructed, and in the forefront. Bonus material includes a new audio commentary with director David DeFalco and Code Red’s Banana Man plus three new and very bizarre interviews with Carrie Stevens lingering from effects of the #MeToo movement to making home fudge, with Charles Fleisher and dissociative disorder or madman genius insight, and ending with a fairly regular interview with Brian Gaskill recollecting the film and his career through a tough industry standard. The Fleisher and Gaskill interviews end with a video op with The Demon himself, David DeFalco. “The Backlot Murders” had forefront potential of systemic slasher films of the time period, but pitter-patters for levity and a sweeping kill count that reconstructs the dread into death and comedy.

“The Backlot Murders” on Prime Video!