Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story Review: Dark and Predictable

Yes, that’s the full name of the show: “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” It takes six episodes for the show to move beyond the serial killer or Evan Peters’ portrayal of him. The story of Dahmer’s victim Tony Anthony Hughes is the focus of this episode, “Silenced,” which was directed by Paris Barkley and written by Janet Mock and David McMillan.

Tony was a friendly aspiring model with a big heart. Rodney Burford, who was in “Deaf U,” played him with warm charm. He was deaf, black, gay and a great dancer. His friends and mother, played by an emotional Karen Malina White, were very interested in him.

With every second that Burford has to breathe new life into Tony, the ending of “Silenced” becomes more terrifying and the failure of the police to discover the truth more frustrating. But as the show’s confusing title suggests, this episode is unlike any other. Otherwise, the new Netflix show from Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan is a dark, sepia slog that rarely justifies its own existence.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem strange that Murphy chose his favorite actor Peters to play one of the most famous serial killers. “Monster” gives Murphy and longtime collaborator Ian Brennan the chance to combine parts of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (also about a gay predator who uses violence to escape loneliness) and “Ratched,” the terrifying prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which tells the story of how a famous villain got his start.

Peters gives another disturbing performance, this time with an equally unsettling Wisconsin accent. But two years after the project was first announced, the surprise release of “Monster” has been quiet, to say the least. Before the premiere, there were no episodes to show and no stars like Peters, Niecy Nash or Molly Ringwald to talk to. There was no opening, no party, no fanfare and nothing else.

Even the companion “Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” which was supposed to be the sequel to Netflix’s previous Ted Bundy series “Conversations with a Killer,” didn’t come out at the same time as “Monster,” as previously thought. As Murphy’s massive deal with Netflix appears to be coming to an end, so are his latest projects for the service.

On the other hand, “Monster” wouldn’t have been worth the hype even if it had gotten all the attention in the world. Like “Versace,” it begins near the end of the story and then goes back in time to show in flashbacks how “Jeff” came to be. The show’s most obvious themes are so heavily crammed into Murphy and Brennan’s scripts that it’s a wonder some scenes made it past the first draft.

Netflix Monster The Jeffrey Dahmer Story Review
Netflix Monster The Jeffrey Dahmer Story Review

Richard Jenkins and Penelope Ann Miller do their best to fight through the crying clichés as Jeff’s parents. In each episode, Jeff continues to plead with his victims not to leave because he’s “sick of everyone leaving me.” (Abandonment issues, get it?) In fact, given the rest of Murphy’s body of work, the least gory parts of The Monster might be the most surprising thing about it. Most of the details of Dahmer’s crimes are left to the viewer’s imagination, or the score does its best to create enough suspense.

While we know (or at least hope) that Murphy and Brennan aren’t trying to make us feel sorry for Dahmer, it’s sickening that so much of this show is spent watching Peters berate Dahmer for being ” weird’, as if he were playing Jughead’s already famous ‘Riverdale’ speech.

“I’m not a normal person, I’m weird, I don’t fit in,” Dahmer said. “I’m weird, I’m a weirdo, I don’t fit in,” Jughead said. Then, after six of the ten episodes were about Dahmer’s personality and the murders, the second half of the show was about what happened after he was caught and how the sheer horror of his crimes made people angry.

This includes many attempts to show how Dahmer was able to get away with so many shocking crimes, while the marginalized communities he worked in, especially queer and black spaces, protested the obvious anxiety around him.

If there was a story worth telling here, and that’s a big “if” considering how many true crime shows there are on TV these days, it was this one. Although “Silenced” takes a different path, most of the important parts of the story are told in one-dimensional platitudes that don’t go as deep as the subject matter needs. Nash, who plays Dahmer’s suspicious neighbor so well, can’t do much to change that. Even though recent episodes of “Monster” try to distance themselves from it, this is still “The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

This is the show for you if you want to see Peters fight his own homophobia by touching a mannequin, masturbating to memories of disembowelled animals, or solemnly frying a human kidney. Beyond that, however, it cannot do as it pleases, which explains both the man and the problems in society that its crimes benefit from, without itself becoming exploitative.

Many, many times the story of Jeffrey Dahmer has been told. While this version seems important, it doesn’t add much more. Netflix show ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ is now available to stream.

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