The upcoming movie My Friend Dahmer tells the story of illustrator John Backderf's high school friendship with notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and if you're into creepy films, you're going to want to check this one out. In the late '70s, Dahmer was just another lonely, offbeat teen, going along with Backderf and his friends' bizarre dares and suggestions. Based on Backderf's graphic novel of the same name, the movie follows Dahmer from middle school right up to the day he committed his first murder, two weeks after graduating from high school. Knowing and watching for signs of what Dahmer will become creates a sustained tension that runs throughout the film, which ends with a title card noting the number of people he eventually murdered. If you're unfamiliar with his gruesome legacy, learn what happened to Jeffrey Dahmer after My Friend Dahmer to know more about his his life beyond his grisly crimes.
The film, out Nov. 3, notes that Dahmer's home life wasn't ideal; his parents were going through a messy divorce, and his mother suffered from mental health problems. After the film's events, his father moved out of the house to live with his new girlfriend, and his mother took his younger brother to live with her in Wisconsin. Dahmer was left alone in his childhood home, and at age 18, he committed his first murder, a young hitchhiker he'd picked up. After a night of drinking, Dahmer killed the young man with a dumbbell and buried his body in the family backyard.
After that, Dahmer attempted a normal life. He hoped to major in business at Ohio State, as The Lantern reports, but after moving in, ended up drinking heavily. Despite his father paying for two terms, he dropped out after just one. In 1979 Dahmer enrolled in the army, serving as a combat medic in West Germany. He was discharged honorably in 1981, and given a ticket to go anywhere in the U.S. As ABC News reports, he settled in Miami Beach, Florida, working at a deli and lived in a nearby motel. After he was evicted from the motel for nonpayment, he returned to Ohio where he lived with his father and stepmother.
Eventually he moved in with his grandmother, and the two actually lived well together, with Dahmer abiding by her house rules and even joining her at church, though he continued drinking heavily. As Backderf noted in his comic, Dahmer's perpetual heavy drinking seemed an attempt to numb himself. It was while living with his grandmother that Dahmer began luring men back to his room, drugging them, and dismembering their bodies. He murdered over four men, but was only caught and sentenced for sexually assaulting a minor, for which he served a few months at a work camp. After being granted parole with five years' probation, he temporarily stayed at his grandmother's until he could find an apartment of his own — she asked him to move out due to the smells coming from the basement and garage, and his habit of bringing strange men home.
In 1990, Dahmer moved into his own apartment, where he committed the majority of his horrifying crimes. Still under parole, he murdered over 12 men, took photos of his crimes, and kept various parts of them stashed around. Neighbors complained of the smell, but he wasn't caught until one of his intended victims ran out into the street and grabbed two officers off the street. What they found inside the North 25th Street apartment was nothing short of a horror movie. Dahmer was judged to be sane, and sentenced by a jury to life imprisonment, plus 70 years.
In jail, Dahmer was again isolated as he'd been in high school, kept in solitary confinement for fear of retaliation by the general inmate population. Given a Bible at his request, Dahmer eventually became a born-again Christian, according to CBN, and in May 1994 was officially baptized. In November that same year, Dahmer and another inmate were killed by the third man working on their shift. Dahmer's death didn't help heal a community shocked by the killer living among them. In an almost too-on-the-nose symbolic echo, the apartment where he committed his crimes was razed in 1992, and remains a vacant lot to this day.
My Friend Dahmer only captures the killer's high school years, but his life overall was full of disturbing events.