Friday , February 23 2024
When news reports of Kurt Cobain's suicide came out, the world was in shock and then settled back to thinking it was another of example of a rocker living fast, dying young and leaving a good looking corpse. Only in Cobain's case it wasn't so good looking; a shotgun blast to the head killed him. Or was it? After the case was closed by the Seattle Police Department another investigator who had information pieced together details and information that he had that the police didn't want to see. His conclusions are explosive and may result in re-investigating Kurt Cobain's death, this time as a homicide.

Movie Review: ‘Soaked in Bleach’ – Controversial Film About Kurt Cobain’s Death

Kurt Cobain, 'Soaked in Bleach, suicide
From the official case file of Kurt Cobain’s death. ‘Soaked in Bleach. Photo from the film.

Soaked in Bleach is the metaphoric, suggestive title (a lyric in “Come As You Are” from album Nevermind), of Benjamin Statler’s film, which infers what really happened in the Kurt Cobain death investigation. The documentary begins with the acknowledgement that for Generation X, Kurt Cobain was the equivalent of what John Lennon was for the baby boomers. Both ended up dead before their time, with Cobain at 27 the same age as Jim Morrison at his death. Cobain was the “go-to” Alternative-Rock icon, establishing grunge music with a permanent place in the stars and Cobain’s Nirvana the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 in 1992 with Nevermind. His tragic death two years later on April 8th, 1994, was pronounced a suicide by the Seattle Police Department.

The question of whether it was or wasn’t a suicide is the subject of Soaked in Bleach. The filmmakers with pinpoint logic, methodical and meticulous details and facts underscore that the gunshot wound to Cobain’s head, the position of the rifle, and Courtney Love’s (his wife), insistence that Cobain was suicidal, prematurely closed down any further death investigation of the quiet, press-shy man whose music reached out to the down trodden of society and whose language spoke to the “average Joe in the streets.”

Kurt Cobain, 'Soaked in Bleach,' Benjamin Statler
Kurt Cobain, ‘Soaked in Bleach,’ a documentary directed by Benjamin Statler. Photo from the film.

Statler uses film clips of testimony by retired law enforcement experts in forensics, investigation, and homicide, who point out that a death ruled a suicide conveniently precludes the need for any further investigation of the evidence. After such a ruling, investigation becomes nearly impossible. This is doubly so for Cobain, whose body has been cremated; interestingly, the building where his body was found, soon afterward was ordered torn down. The notion of suicide was first presented by Courtney Love when she hired private investigator Tom Grant to locate Kurt Cobain. This was five days before the corpse was located. That notion of suicide was fueled by the media along with other misinformation which the filmmakers expose as lies.

Indeed, the rapacious media reveled in the story of another celebrity rocker nihilist who “burned bright then burned out.” Thus, filmmakers disclose that the idea of Cobain’s death as a suicide was entrenched. It helped to obliterate the need for any credible death investigation into what really might have happened. According to experts, the Seattle Police Department prompted by Love in a highly unusual and uncharacteristic move for law enforcement death investigations, ruled his death a suicide in one day, the day the body was found. Then they closed the file on Cobain.

Tom Grant, 'Soaked in Bleach,' Kurt Cobain
PI Tom Grant’s tapes. ‘Soaked in Bleach,.’ Photo from the film.

If suicide is convenient for the police and the possible murderer or murderers, then inconvenient is the aftermath of Cobain’s suicide as it has influenced others. Fans of the rocker have celebrated him in death by more greatly embracing his music and memory in life. Then there are the others. These are the copy cat suicides. Reports of teens have sprung up over the years. It is a global phenomenon. As parents have had to bury their children who killed themselves leaving notes that referenced Cobain’s death or Nirvana’s song lyrics, they’ve had to go through the tragedy of asking themselves how they could have prevented the daughter’s or son’s loss. To date there have been 68 related copy cat suicides, each one of them a profound, individual family tragedy. To consider that Cobain might have been the victim, not at his own hands but at someone else’s, makes their deaths a completely macabre and twisted irony too horrible to contemplate.

Soaked in Bleach reveals this and more as filmmakers travel the stark, mind bending road to uncover truths that conclude Cobain’s death was improperly investigated and incorrectly determined. The implications that his was a probable homicide run far and wide to decrying the investigative skills of the Seattle Police Department and implicating those in charge at the time. If the investigation of Cobain’s death is reopened, as suggested it should be by journalist Max Wallace and officials like retired Seattle Chief of Police, Norm Stomper, Vernon J. Geberth, former Homicide Commander of NYPD, the Bronx, and Dr. Cyril H. Wecht (Forensic Pathologist and Former President of the American Academy of Forensic Science), and then if Cobain’s death is ruled a homicide, the problem will be locating enough evidence to identify a killer or killers. Motive will play a huge factor in that determination. Filmmakers, through the testimony of experts, suggest possibilities.

'Soaked in Bleach,' Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
Location where Cobain’s body was found. ‘Soaked in Bleach,’ Photo courtesy of the film.

This documentary first and last is tantamount to a crime thriller. Though Cobain’s suicide ruling by police was a quick and dirty convenience, Statler and co-writers Donnie Eichar and Richard Middleton make the compelling case that Seattle investigators were wrong. The screenwriters present this argument  throughout with clips of Cobain’s friends who give testimony about his positive mental state, audio tape recordings, experts’ commentary, and recreations of the players who peopled the last days of Cobain’s life before the body was discovered. Much of the information is from the official case files from the Seattle Police Department investigation.These evidentiary revelations and facts are contrasted with media misrepresentations and video clip commentary by Seattle Police investigators, which Max Wallace, Norm Stomper, Vernon J. Geberth, and others believe made a “rush to judgment.”

The lynchpin in the filmmakers’ presentation is private investigator Tom Grant whose law enforcement background and reputation are sterling. The film is shot undergirded by Grant’s perspective. Grant, who was hired by Courtney Love to locate Kurt Cobain 5 days before his body was found, discusses his experiences dealing with Love during this time. It is his revelations that are the most startling; it is his commentary that is the most logical and convincing.

Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, suicide, homicide, 'Soaked in Bleach,' Benjamin Statler
Courtney Love wife of Kurt Cobain. ‘Soaked in Bleach,’ directed by Benjamin Statler. Photo from the film.

As Statler focuses on Grant, he includes audio clips of Grant’s tape recordings of conversations with Courtney Love and others during the time he worked for her. Suspicious of Courtney Love’s contradictory stories, Grant taped her and taped all of those he spoke to including her attorney and Cobain’s friends. With these tapes and Grant’s narrative, filmmakers reduce to a still point his rationale which teases out the threads of truth from media falsehoods. It is these which they sew into a manifest tapestry that Cobain’s death was anything but a suicide.

The documentary is beautifully organized into clear, easy to understand segments. Statler’s adept direction makes excellent use of his recreations to identify the chronology of the days Grant worked with Love. Continually interspersed throughout are video clips of the experts who pull apart the Seattle Police Department’s uber brief death investigation to reveal their mismanagement of the case, their blunders as well as how and why this probably occurred. Pieces of evidence and reports are reviewed. There is one that is particularly astounding. It was identified that the amount of heroin in Cobain’s body would have put him in a coma or near coma state; he would not have been sentient enough to use a shotgun to kill himself. He was found with three times the lethal dose of heroin in his body. That contradictory detail from the official case files raises pivotal questions. It goes to the heart of questioning the logic of the Seattle Police Department, who supposedly reviewed the chain of evidence left at the death scene to determine how Cobain killed himself.

Soaked in Bleach should be seen if you enjoy investigative crime documentaries. Even if one is not a fan of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, the film is powerful in what it suggests and well made in its presentations and arguments. It is clear that the filmmakers have taken the time to carefully reconstruct the possibilities of what didn’t happen in the death of Kurt Cobain. They do this in the interest of discovering what actually did happen to a man whose life had miles to go.

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About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' ( 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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  1. Don't Get Fooled Again

    Great review! Spot on… I can’t wait to see the movie myself.

  2. Matt Ian Albano

    Thank you for not being biased! You’re amazing! There’s not many honest writers like you!

  3. This is the only objective, intelligent review I’ve read of Soaked In Bleach.Thank you.

  4. Wow- you didn’t just write it off as a kooky conspiracy theory movie without discussing the merits!

  5. So satisfying to know there are journalists that will review on their own opinion rather that the opinion of others or for others, or perhaps out of fear and money….hey Courtney!

  6. Just an info. a heroin addict doesn’t think of suicide. A heroin addict is a person who tries to escape the everyday life troubles and stress by shooting heroin. He never thinks of killing himself. Cobain drove a Volvo because it was one of the safest cars and he was never a fast driver. A heroin addict will die of an overdose and 99% its accidental not on purpose. Cobain didn’t kill himself, Cobain was killed. A psychiatrist once said that heroin addicts love themselves so much that they don’t think of taking their own lives.

    • Kurt actually said if he wanted to commit suicide he would just overdose. So overdosing and the shotgun? Definitely overkill.