“This is the happiest day of my life!” gushes Baton Rouge funeral director Rick Staton in a home video edited into Julian P. Hobbs’s documentary Collectors. His glee accompanies his long-dreamt-of admittance to the Sharon Tate mansion shortly before demolition. Such are the thrills of serial-killer aficionados Staton and best bud Tobias Allen—when they’re not surveying notorious murder sites or bartering for shrunken heads, the duo write to the killers themselves, encouraging them to take up painting and make a few bucks off their notoriety. Staton hit upon the idea after becoming the “exclusive dealer” of John Wayne Gacy’s garish acrylics—further knotting the snarled system of exploitation and ritual at the core of Hobbs’s film, albeit in clumsily managed and trivialized form. The titular packrats may be forthright about their obsession, but Collectors remains maddeningly blasé about its own position in the serial-killer mythos.
That we’re never quite convinced the two men aren’t creepy assholes seems integral to the film’s concerns, but all the truly eye-rolling sound bites come from inarticulate victims’-rights advocates. Similarly, sobering counterpoints to Staton and Allen’s fun are marred by crass overkill, as when horrific stills of mutilated children (slain by the collectors’ client/pen pal Elmer Wayne Henley) are bombastically scored and presented in fetishistic close-up. Hobbs (a Court TV alumnus) has his own ritualistic agenda—part of which is keeping mum on his degree of collusion with his subjects. When Staton shows off a Gacy painting of his young son (based on photos Staton lent the killer), we wonder how the collector’s unseen wife feels about such tribute. Collectors never even thinks to ask.
A line of inquiry into the appearance of The Sculptress anywhere but on Cinemax might be raised, but why bother? “Dark Man [psycho neighbor] + Dreams + Gargoyles + Evil Spirits = Incubus!” is how one character sums up the troubles of clay-scrunching naïf Katie Wright, and it’s as clear a description as any. Sadly, most of the endless blather’s way less loopy, and Wright’s “British” accent elicits the only shudders.