The grindhouses may be long gone, but their memory lingers on, thanks to releases like this one, which, being released in 1993, is from the twilight years of theatrical exploitation, and thus more accurately from the second, virtual life the grindhouse aesthetic found on home video. This is the life of Jeffrey Dahmer, narrated in retrospect by the serial killer (screenwriter Carl Crew). Dahmer recounts his obsessions and growing need to kill, and a fair bit of the film’s running time consists of Dahmer hooking up with young men and murdering them.
The film has, then, a very episodic structure, with very little clear narrative progression. Text on the screen fills us in as to dates and locations, and that is about it. The insights into the mind of a serial killer are of the most obvious kind. There is a bit of restraint present when it comes to the killings, in that there could have been a lot more gore, but they are certainly unpleasant, and I don’t necessarily mean that it a good way. No, they shouldn’t be fun, but the endless parade of murders becomes the film’s reason for being, and the lack of any connection between the audience and the victims is a problem. Given how recent the killings were when the film was made and released, it’s not too surprising that the victims’ families were a little upset. So this is an exploitation film in the purest sense, and interesting for that reason, and rather off-putting for the same reason.
As this is an Intervision release, the nostalgia factor is not simply for the grindhouse era, but also the days of VHS, which are certainly invoked by the fullscreen presentation (apparently the film’s original format). The picture is pretty raw, too, though that’s the character of the film rather than the transfer. The picture is grainy, the colours gritty and ugly. It looks like it was shot in 1973, not 1993. In this case, the bargain-basement look to the film adds a grimy authenticity to the proceedings.
More of the same here, with the original mono track being perfectly serviceable. Some muzziness now and then is another sign of the movie’s tiny budget, but otherwise, the job is done just fine.
Audio Commentary: Director David R. Bowen and Car Crew get together to remember the making of the film. There’s good stuff here, with lots of great detail about how filmmaking at this end of the budget scale can be a real adventure. Legal problems and controversy aside, there was also the problem of the Rodney King riots screwing up the filming.
Not a nice film, nor a terribly good one, but if you have a serious interest not so much in the actual subject matter, but the exploitation genre itself, then this is a worthwhile time investment.