The Even Stranger Case Of My Friend Dahmer (BD-R/ Blu-ray Comparison)


Here's one I just had to cover.  It's partially because My Friend Dahmer is such a great, little movie that seems to be flying under everybody's radar.  But even more than that, I just had to document this film's bizarre journey to home video.  It's a brand new film, just coming out of the festival circuit; and the company Filmrise just released it this month on DVD and Blu.  And they'll be releasing it again, next month, on DVD and Blu.  Why?  Well, I'll explain it all below, but let me just warn you up front: it will make even less sense once you've gotten the full explanation of what's going on.  My Friend Dahmer's naturally a little peculiar, but not half as much as what Filmrise is up to...

Update 3/25/18 - 4/6/18: Umm... good news?! Pressed disc added, and it's not what we were told!
It's an unnervingly true story, based on a graphic novel, about the artist's high school friendship with the actual Jeffrey Dahmer.  Imagine American Splendor if Harvey Pekar had spent his formative years in close proximity to, well, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Did you know Dahmer was the mascot of "The Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club" in his high school years?  That's absolutely true.  And not because he used to be a normal cool kid who later became crazy.  He was a visibly disturbed individual back then, too.  And a group of underground comics-inspired teens became inspired to ring their circle of friends around him and celebrate his eccentricities, never suspecting, of course, just how dark he could actually become.  Like I, Tonya, we're never asked to like the title character, or forgive his crimes.  But we are given a fascinatingly earnest look into how he became what he became, and see him understandably humanized, though of course never forgivable.  This film puts in the place of the people all around him, the kids who befriended him, the girl who went to prom with him.  Did you know he met vice president Walter Mondale?  It's such an unexpected story.
Now, I can understand some people being disappointed by this film if they're not prepared for what it isn't.  This isn't a thriller with gruesome depictions of his murders or police hot on his trail.  If you go in expecting that, yeah sorry.  But that movie's been made at least three times already - one of them made Jeremy Renner famous.  So all that's already out there if you want it.  With this, seriously, think Crumb meets We Need To Talk About Kevin, but more subdued.  It's a 70's period piece, it's a surprisingly confessional autobiography about whether these kids maybe played a little too fast and loose with someone's mental illness; and the scariest thing is how much you'll relate to everyone on screen; at least if you're around my age.  The cast is basically unknown, with the only real name being Anne Heche giving a wild performance as Jeffrey's mother.  But Walking Dead fans will probably find Dallas Roberts eerily familiar, and the kid who player's Dahmer's "minister of propaganda" was the Boston bomber in that Mark Wahlberg movie last year.  Anyway, the point is, everyone really delivers in this movie on all fronts.  It's an excellent little movie.
 
So what's the crazy story with this film's DVD already?  Well, okay.  First it was announced as coming in April, on DVD and blu.  Preorders went up on Amazon and other sites; and everything's normal so far.  But then additional pages went up for this movie on DVD and blu on Amazon, as well as a couple other sites, with a release date in March.  And this March version was listed as a special edition.  And an MOD title.  So why would anyone order a BD-R, or DVR, copy of this film in March if a proper pressed disc is right around the corner, you ask?  Because the April discs aren't special editions and don't have any extras.  I've even had it confirmed direct from Filmrise themselves.  So we have to choose between special features or a pressed disc.  Each release is 50% compromised.  There is no pressed special edition.  Why?  God only knows, but it sure is frustrating.

...Or not! Now that it's April, I just got my hand on the pressed disc, and it has the extras after-all!  The new disc is unquestionably the pressed disc.  The labels are totally different [see above... BD-R left, Blu-ray right], the disc underside itself is silver instead of the funky greenish blu of the BD-R.  I guess Filmrise listened to us!  You can see in reviews like this one, where they reviewed the screeners, the extras weren't on 'em.  So it must've been a last minute change.  So, huzzah?!  I mean, being one myself, I do appreciate how it sucks for anyone who bought the BD-R "Special Edition" last month.  But I can't be mad at them hearing our complaints and making a big change for the better to their new release.  Anyway, I've got both blus here now, so let's have a look!
2018 US Filmrise BD-R top; 2018 US Filmrise blu-ray bottom.
2018 US Filmrise BD-R left; 2018 US Filmrise blu-ray right.
This film is presented in the very wide AR of 2.41:1, probably just the effects of the fact that any movie can just as well be in any aspect ratio the director feels like now in this digital age.  This film was shot on digital, so we're not hunting out film grain here, and it's a new release presumably taken right from the DCP, so there's not a lot for the blu-ray transfer to risk screwing up.  Still, it's an attractive, crisp HD image.  A lot of the picture's on the soft side just because the filmmakers were playing with depth of field and moving the camera all the time.  And as far as the difference between the discs, to the BD-R's credit, I think it would even pass a blind taste test.  Both discs are single layer with all the same features and menus, now... So I guess it's even the same encode now?  Is that possible.  There's still the issue of BD-R playback on some machines, but I have to say, it's worked fine in my player and PC drive, the latter of which has had problems before with BD-Rs.

Also, both the pressed and BD-R discs give us the option between 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mixes, plus removable English subtitles.  But these audio tracks are lossy AC3.  Yes, on the pressed disc, too.
So just what are all these extras, anyway?  Online listings have all been a little vague about what makes this special edition special, so I'll break it all down for you.  Basically, it's roughly an hour's worth of pretty good on-camera interviews.  The longest is with writer/ director Marc Meyers, who talks for 20 minutes, telling us pretty much all you'd want to know.  Then there are shorter interviews with almost all of the cast, including Heche, Roberts, and all the main high school kids.  They're all shot on location at different points, well shot, and pretty engaging.  Ross Lynch, who plays Dahmer himself, has two interviews.  A solid one shot in his studio, and a shorter promotional one set to music, selling the film.  I do wish they'd also grabbed one with Derf Backderf, creator of the original comic who apparently did sometimes visit the set.  He could've spoken to the actual events as well maybe given a little closer look at the original material.  But all this stuff we get is good.  Not great.  No equivalent to the epic, 4-hour Prometheus documentary or anything; but I was satisfied with what we got.  They talked to just about everybody, so I didn't feel ripped off in the "special edition" department.  Oh, and the trailer's also on here.  And yes, all of that is 100% the same on both editions.  The menus are even identical.
Well, there's no longer a question of which version to get.  If the MOD version even stays on the market (as of this writing, it still is), avoid it.  I mean, you might not be able to tell the difference anyway; but the BDR's more expensive and now offers nothing exclusive.  Just get the proper official disc, which I can happily now recommend with no issues.  Oh, and it's a great movie, too.  Let's not lose sight of that.

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