Captain Hook or Gacy? The creatures of Midian or Dahmer? If you’re like me and are drawn to the fantastical elements of horror, your choices are, quite naturally, going to lend themselves to the former in those scenarios. Still, talented filmmaker John Borowski exposes why mass murderers are granted such intense obsessions in his thought provoking, truly intelligent documentary Serial Killer Culture.
Focusing on the artists and collectors who are inspired by the lives of such figures as Richard Ramirez, Ed Gein and Richard Speck, Borowski truly sheds some light on what many may consider a controversial interest. In fact, the people he interviews often acknowledge that their passion is a double edged sword. Rick Staton, Gacy’s former art dealer, frankly admits that these are heinous individuals who should never profit from their acts and recalls how as his boy grew older, his interest in Gacy (and others) waned.
Almost all involved, interestingly, point a finger at modern media and society, itself, for giving them their first, lasting impressions of the criminals that they have developed fascinations with. Oddly enough, Life Magazine is exposed as a primary source of making these men (and occasional women) heroes, by devoting countless layouts and cover stories to their frightening acts.
Amanda Morden and Nicholas Vellman of Milwaukee’s Dahmer Tour, perhaps, most articulately point out the historical ramifications of their interests, as well. Morden stresses how every aspect of the Dahmer tragedy is examined, from the local architecture to pulling the facts away from the myths, with her creation. While vile and unfortunate, Dahmer’s legacy belongs to Milwaukee, and she eloquently proposes that this tour tries to put that fact into perspective.
Borowski, also, lightens the tone a bit by focusing on The World Famous Crawlspace Brothers, a punk edged folk duo who perform humorous songs about the different killers. While some may argue about their choice of material, the group has even found favor with some Christian fundamentalists and they claim that their inspiration sources back to the old time murder ballads covered by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
Most importantly, though, Borowski allows all his viewers a chance for discovery, here. His subjects emerge in full bodied portraits and even those who would never want to own a Charles Manson autograph glean (at least a glimmer of) an understanding of why someone else might want to.
Interestingly, the serial killer’s influence on queer culture cannot be denied, here, as well. While the (unfortunate) homosexual connections to Gacy and Dahmer are well known, the personal effects of (the less well known) Herb Baumeister, an Indiana father and businessman who murdered multiple men after sexual escapades, are also a primary portion of one collector’s vaults. Thus, it seems an examination of the degree of self hate involved in the acts of Gacy, Dahmer, Baumeister and their ilk would seemingly make a vital and compelling study, as well.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!