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Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice re-released to cash in on the movie

by Drew Rowsome

Professional provocateur James Franco certainly knows how to promote a movie. An Instragram photo of a shirtless Franco, arm draped around teen idol Keegan Allen clad only in a Nasty Pig jockstrap, announced to the world that Franco's film King Cobra is coming. And that Franco is playing gay, and playing with gay rumours (Interior: Leather Bar), again.

The film, written and directed by Justin Kelly, is based on the murder of porn producer Bryan Kocis. To add to the juiciness, the role of Sean Lockhart aka porn star Brent Corrigan, is being played by Garrett Clayton, a clean-cut product of the Disney family-friendly factory. Clayton is best known for starring in the Teen Beach Movie franchise.

As well as looking eerily like Zac Efron, Clayton seems to be following Efron's career trajectory by tackling a role that upends the Disney stigma and flirts with all us gays. The addition of Molly Ringwald, Alicia Silverstone and Christian Slater give King Cobra a certain camp legitimacy so Clayton is not going as rogue as Miley Cyrus. However he will have a tougher climb than Efron: the Teen Beach Movies are even more execrable than the High School Musicals.

The film's source material is the book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice which is being re-released to capitalize on the film. The book is a true crime would-be thriller that delves deep into the case and is a fascinating if exhausting read. The authors Andrew E Stoner and Peter A Conway are very careful to present all the facts (that is the exhausting part) and to maintain a journalistic distance. The amount of research is laudable, the occasional repetitions somewhat forgivable.

The story is sensational and somewhat sordid, so the dry tone actually builds suspense as the story, with a lot of jumping around in time to provide character background, unfolds. Bryan Kocis ran a gay porn company that specialized in his favoured flavour, twinks. Unfortunately his biggest star, Brent Corrigan, began performing for Kocis's cameras while still underage. This, and Corrigan's desire to take control of his career and end the non-business part of their relationship, lead to bitter litigation.

Simultaneously, Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes were turning their successful escort business into a porn business. They were achieving success but were not earning enough money to support their expensive tastes. Their solution was to cast Corrigan in a film with Cuadra, capitalizing on Corrigan's notoriety and star status. Unfortunately Corrigan was tied up in litigation with Kocis and was unable to commit.

Cuadra and Kerekes promised to take care of it and Cuadra, using a fake name, went to an audition at Kocis's home. Kocis wound up dead, throat slit and stabbed 28 times, and his house set on fire. From there the book becomes a CSI wet dream as Corrigan wears a wire at a nude beach, the alleged murderers change their stories frantically, inter-generational romances fray, and eventually it all goes to trial.

Stoner and Conway present several sides to every story and have uncovered thousands of details that illuminate and obfuscate at the same time. They seem somewhat unfamiliar with gay sexuality and the world of porn but are careful not to be judgmental, while struggling to be sensationalistic (there are books to be sold!), until the very last sentence which leaves a very sour taste. 

Because the book is a very sober and thorough recounting of the case, the film could go in any direction. Any character would make a compelling protagonist, any point of view would be dramatic. As much as I appreciated the careful factual tone of Cobra Killer, I find myself hoping that King Cobra will dive into the world of porn and murder and, as well as showing lots of flesh (Franco who is so great at playing a sleaze, is looking very buff), will become a camptastic gay cinematic masterpiece.