Written by Patti Pauley
This has been a long time coming Retro Rewinders. If you were of sound mind in 1993, you may recall a horrific little made for TV movie entitled The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer. Or technically speaking, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer.
Oh yes, we’re going to talk about this fuckery.
Frankly speaking, I’m not sure why this film isn’t talked about more often in horror circles. Visually the 1993 film looks pretty dated however, the movie that in my opinion, has most accurately depicted Dahmer’s perception of life and twisted state of mind, to this day holds up as THEE legit Dahmer movie out of the several that have popped up since the twisted killer’s arrest on July 22, 1991. And regarding gorehounds out there, it’s DEFINITELY the most brutal and by far the most unsettling to sit through. I’m not sure how I got away with watching this completely fucked up movie with my virgin 10-year-old eyes, but I most certainly did. Bless the golden age of HBO and the days when the boob tube was an acceptable babysitter for rugrats.
Directed by David Bowen and starring a convincible Carl Crew as the infamous Dahmer, The Secret Life is told from the killer’s point of view and laid out through the horrific 14 years of Dahmer’s life of murder and madness that resulted in the deaths of 17 young men and ultimately, leading up to his arrest. Crew (Dahmer) with those hauntingly calming voice-over monologues as a well-aware killer with an eternal fear of abandonment throughout the movie and ability to go from calm as a cucumber to unhinged is in my opinion, pretty underrated as Crew’s performance is quite the treat for fans of this type of film.
The Secret Life was released two years after Dahmer’s real-life arrest and one year prior to his death in prison, so the terrifying discovery of the acts from Dahmer was still fresh in the world’s mind. And the fact that the film played the no hold’s barred card with extremely violent sequences involving the murder of Dahmer’s victims, really set some folks off in the sensitivity department. Curious audiences who had followed the case knew to an extent, of the horrors Dahmer unleashed upon his prey, but I’m not so sure anyone was really prepared for the brutal savagery displayed on film that seemed like something out of a snuff flick but was in fact, reality of the final moments of the casualties of Dahmer. Bowen’s telling of the grisly murders and semi-humanizing Dahmer in a way to look deeper behind the monster didn’t sit too well with a lot of critics and viewers back in ’93 so the film seemed to drop off the face of the earth with the ending of the VHS era until a few years back when Intervision released a DVD that includes the original trailer, audio commentary with director Bowen, and a featurette with Carl Crew.
The Dahmer true tale of torture and terror is unsettling enough as it is and this movie goes balls deep right into it without adding any flair or big-budget fluff. And frankly, it works better that way. It feels like you’re watching something maybe you really shouldn’t be looking at, however the story is told so well behind the brutality of it that severed heads proudly on display in Dahmer’s fridge are secondary elements in Bowen’s movie. Even so, it’s not for the queasy folks. And I wouldn’t suggest eating any beef stew during a viewing.
For those interested in revisiting or for first-time viewers, The Secret Life is available over on Amazon.