Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
Directed by Carl Franklin
Written by Ryan Murphy & Ian Brennan
* For a recap & review of Ep. 2, click here.
A news story in 1991 talks about police brutality against Black people. Glenda Cleveland (Niecy Nash) is watching television in her apartment when she hears a bunch of noise coming from a nearby apartment belonging to Jeffrey Dahmer (Evan Peters). That’s because Jeffrey is busy doing horrific things next door. Glenda’s been noticing an odd stench wafting through the vents, and it’s getting a lot worse. So, naturally, she asks Jeffrey about it again when he’s on his way out one day. He blames it on “bad meat” and his dead tropical fish who suffered from a deadly fungus. Glenda doesn’t entirely believe Jeffrey, but she’s unsettled by him and she doesn’t push any further.
Jeffrey walks past a pole plastered with Missing posters featuring all young Black men; an eerie image, since we know Dahmer’s real-life victim preference. He heads to a gay bar where he tries to flirt with a pair of Black guys who know him already. Jeffrey’s been buying lots of young Black men drinks. But they say he won’t make a move. They wonder if he will this time. Jeffrey replies: “Tonight I‘m a man of action.” Later, he dances a bit but he’s laughed at for a serious lack of moves. He also tells the Black guys he’s a photographer, offering them $50 if they’ll pose for him. They’re not exactly willing. After a while Tracy (Shaun J. Brown) agrees to go with Jeff and the other friends say they might drop by later.
Back at Jeffrey’s apartment, Tracy immediately notices the strange smell. Dahmer blames it on meat that went bad in his small freezer. But Tracy’s unsettled. He doesn’t dig noticing a copy of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible sitting around, either. Jeffrey rustles up a couple drinks, drugging Tracy’s, and even Tracy notices something in his drink but Dahmer assuages any worries. Soon, Tracy wants to leave. Jeffrey asks: “Why‘s everybody wanna leave me?” Once again, Jeffrey steers things where he wants them to go, distracting Tracy with his fish tank before slipping handcuffs on the man’s wrist, claiming it’s for the photos. This starts a struggle between the two, until Jeffrey wrestles Tracy to the ground. Then Dahmer picks up a knife and threatens Tracy, ordering him into the bedroom.
Dahmer forces Tracy to sit on the bed while they watch The Exorcist III. He says after that he’ll pay Tracy. Then Tracy sees a barrel in the corner of the room, becoming more unsettled. He starts to freak out and he’s pinned to the mattress, where he notices a big bloody stain. Jeffrey sits on the edge of the bed with a hand on Tracy’s leg. Tracy decides to play along, holding Dahmer’s hand and slowly getting sexual with him. Dahmer stops the tape, picking up his knife again. Tracy says they’ll continue if Jeffrey puts the knife down, and Dahmer complies. He dances a bit for his captor, taking off his shirt, and tells Jeffrey to go get the camera. Jeffrey gets the camera, almost giving Tracy time to get the knife; but not quite. He starts to snap Polaroids while Tracy slinks half erotically, half terrified along the floor. But Jeffrey’s had enough; he wants to watch the movie.
Back in the bedroom, The Exorcist III plays while Jeffrey keeps drinking and Tracy bides his time, mentioning he doesn’t like horror movies. Dahmer mumbles that “death is just a part of life” while Tracy can’t stop staring at the barrel in the corner of the room. He asks if Tracy’s afraid of the movie or him. Tracy continues to try playing along, being sweet to Jeffrey. Afterwards, Dahmer skips to the “best part” of the film when the priest is attacked by the demonic presence. And that’s when he’s ready. Jeff asks if he can listen to Tracy’s heartbeat, putting his head against the latter’s chest. They lay together on the bloodstained mattress. Jeff tells Tracy: “I wanna hear your heart because I‘m gonna eat it.”
Some time passes and Tracy tries to attack Jeffrey. He nearly makes it out of the door but then Dahmer attacks again. Tracy fights Jeffrey off one more time and makes it through the door, running down the hall screaming that Dahmer tried to kill him. Glenda has a look outside, scared by the state of Jeffrey. Meanwhile, Tracy runs through the neighbourhood yelling for help, though nobody seems to come rushing to give him any. All Dahmer can do is walk back to his kitchen and light a cigarette. Blocks away, cops find a shirtless Tracy with a cuff hanging from his wrist in an alley. They approach him like a suspect, assuming Tracy’s on drugs while Tracy attempts to explain a man tried to murder him.
It isn’t long and Jeffrey hears footsteps, then a knock at the door. Dahmer answers and the cops ask if he handcuffed Tracy. He plays it off as “fun and games” between two gay guys, a game of “cops and robbers.” Dahmer offers to get the key for the handcuffs, but the cops want to come inside. He reluctantly lets them in and they notice the smell as soon as the door opens wide. Jeffrey, again, goes with his pork chop story. He says the key’s in his bedroom and the cops insist on looking for themselves. One cop sees the blood on the mattress, as well as the barrel in the bedroom, and gay porn magazines on the floor. He’s led to where the key is and also happens upon a bunch of photos that Jeffrey calls “gay stuff.” But then the cop sees more photos of bloody men. Dahmer tries to bolt and the cops arrest him. Outside, Tracy weeps: “You killed my people, motherfucker.” The police are already getting shit, rightfully so, for ignoring the problem so long, even though people like Glenda were complaining about the smell and something bad happening there.
Lionel Dahmer (Richard Jenkins) is woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call about his son Jeffrey. He’s stared at by everyone at the police station as a couple detectives bring him to an interrogation room. The two detectives then explain Jeffrey’s been arrested for murder, which shocks Lionel, but at the same time the father admits his son “was always a strange boy.” He mentions Jeffrey being alone at eighteen when he and his wife were going through a divorce, believing that must’ve had an effect on his son. Lionel further mentions his son having a hernia operation at a very young age. He doesn’t know if Jeffrey suffered brain damage because of the surgery. (In reality, Dahmer says that he was traumatised by the surgery because he woke up and thought his penis was gone.)
The detectives explain Jeffrey lured a man to his apartment and tried to murder him, plus the cops at the scene found evidence of “multiple murders.” They tell Lionel a human head was found in the fridge. The freezer contained human hearts and male genitalia. The bedroom contained five skulls, as well as various weapons and photos documenting the nasty processes of death and dismemberment. Then there was the massive barrel full of acid, containing three torsos and other body parts. Icing on the cake? (Pun intended.) The cops tell Lionel they think Jeffrey ate some of his victims. They give him time alone to process things and Lionel all but immediately collapses into tears, trying to hold it all back, burying things somewhere deep inside.
All the residents of Dahmer’s building are being asked to leave during the investigation due to “toxic chemicals.” Everyone affected because of Dahmer’s actions. Glenda asks a cop how many bodies were found, unaware of how serious the horror inside Jeffrey’s apartment was, even though she knew something was wrong. The impact of Dahmer’s crimes on the Black community and the general community in that neighbourhood is astounding, and heartbreaking. Glad this series is focusing on these types of things from the first episode.