Audiences have long been engrossed by stories about serial killers. Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer – we just love to hate them and, on some level, are fascinated by them. Netflix didn’t hesitate with their title of the next iteration of the subgenre: Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. In the 10-episode limited series, spearheaded by Ryan Murphy, actor Evan Peters is taking on the role of Jeffrey Dahmer, and he’s handling it as one might expect of an American Horror Story alum.
After working simultaneously on Mare of Easttown (playing Detective Colin Zabel) and WandaVision last year, Evan Peters can be found on some high-profile TV projects. Apparently, he actively avoided reading the script to find out who the killer was that evaded Kate Winslet in Easttown, but that’s not something he could do for infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. When asked by Variety how he was going to do it, he said:
That’s a hard one, I’m still figuring that out. I’ve read so much, I’ve watched so much, I’ve seen so much, and at a certain point, you’ve got to say, ‘All right, that’s enough.’ There are beautifully written scripts. You can have all the backstory you want, but at the end of the day we’re not making a documentary. It’s more about maintaining the idea and the through line of why you’re telling the story and always having that as your guiding light. But, there’s so much material for Dahmer that I think it’s incredibly important to make it really authentic.
This delicate balance has been a point of contention for past movies or series that have been made about serial killers. Sometimes they get accused of being salacious for turning the focus on the killer rather than the victims or for just being flat-out bad, such as in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. But there are ways to do it right, as seen in Mindhunter or Marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer. According to Variety, Monster will be told through the eyes of Dahmer's victims and focus on the police involved and Dahmer's white privilege.
Jeffrey Dahmer has been portrayed many other times in movies and television shows, going as far back as 1992, right after his trial. He became known as the “Milwaukee Cannibal” and “Milwaukee Monster” after killing 17 males in the late '70s to early '90s. Evan Peters shared that in order to portray Dahmer, it required a level of trial and error and experimenting. The Quicksilver actor (although not in WandaVision) said:
So I have been doing a lot of research, and it’s interesting, playing him or Colin or even going into Horror Story or WandaVision, where is that line? You can play around with levels of naturalism and understatedness, versus the zany, over-the-top, ‘his is very clearly a TV show meant for entertainment.’ It’s almost a scene by scene, episode by episode, moment by moment basis, deciding, ‘OK yeah he did that there in real life’ or ‘No he didn’t do that there, but that’s OK because it works for the story we’re trying to tell.'
He is known somewhat as an actor in how he can shift between high and low brow art with what looks like ease. But Evan Peters’ reputation in the horror genre is highly respectable, so Netflix’s Monster could really be something his career has prepared him for, no matter how he goes about doing it. Fans are certainly ready for it.