Ross Lynch (center) in a scene from My Friend Dahmer.

Based on a bizarre graphic novel by Derf Backderf (a former Independent contributor via his late, lamented syndicated comic strip The City), one of serial-killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s actual classmates, My Friend Dahmer is not what you might be expecting.

Director Marc Meyers, who also wrote the screenplay, shows us a young, pre-murders Dahmer (Ross Lynch), an awkward high school student with an unfortunate chemistry obsession. Dahmer’s propensity toward spazzing out for attention gets him a little fan club, and a group of kids befriend him in an odd sort of way. While Dahmer makes it into their small ring of friends, nobody ever gets too close to him.

Meyers uses real history (Dahmer’s obsession with a local jogger, his torture of animals) to try to explore some of the messed-up factors that led Dahmer to his horrifying killing spree. The events lead up to the moment when Dahmer picks up an ill-fated hitchhiker—the first of his many victims.

Lynch makes Dahmer a real character rather than caricature; he’s a fatally flawed young man on a seemingly irreversible path of disgusting destruction. Alex Wolff is excellent as Backderf, a casual friend of Dahmer whose sketches would eventually lead to this unsettling, expertly crafted movie.

My Friend Dahmer is available via online sources including iTunes and