Nirvana fans worldwide were devastated, when on April 8th, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead. Adding to the distress, it was revealed he took his own life, dying from a self-inflicted shotgun wound. Over 20 years later, a new documentary, Soaked in Bleach, examines the possibility that Cobain’s shocking death wasn’t due to a suicide, but a homicide.
Largely told through information provided by private investigator Tom Grant, writer/producer/director Benjamin Statler takes another look at the case. Grant was hired by Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, in April 1994, supposedly to find Kurt after he went missing following a stint in rehab. Almost immediately after taking the case, red flags started popping up, and Grant began recording all the conversations he had with Love and others. Statler airs selections from those audio recordings, along with interviews with Grant, various law enforcement experts, and friends of Cobain’s, taking the viewer down a path that is revelatory and often chilling. I was surprised to learn of all the myths we’ve taken as truth in regards to the crime scene, how much the media played a role in disseminating this misinformation, and just how badly the Seattle police department bungled the case. Statler also filmed several recreations, and while such a technique can often appear cheesy and cheap looking, here they are highly effective and stylistically pleasing.
Kurt in 1994
So if Kurt Cobain was murdered, who did it and why? In Soaked in Bleach, all roads lead to Courtney Love. Kurt was planning to divorce her and was drafting a new will at that time of his death; the two had signed a prenuptial agreement and Courtney had a lot to lose financially if the couple divorced. She’s portrayed, often through recordings of her own voice, as being highly manipulative and contradictory. In the documentary, she’s all but accused of orchestrating Cobain’s murder, which will surely be a stretch for many, while others will find it impossible to deny the possibility after watching the film. It’s worth noting that Love has yet to file a defamation lawsuit against Statler, nor Grant, who’s been pursuing the case, publicizing his findings—and his interpretations of those findings—for decades. (including his appearance in Nick Broomfield’s Kurt & Courtney documentary of 1998). Her lawyers did send Statler cease and desist letters and recently threatened theatre owners set to screen Soaked in Bleach, but no further action was taken.
Kurt and Courtney
Though the documentary is one-sided, and Statler doesn’t offer conclusive proof of foul play, what’s presented does raise many questions. One indication that Kurt’s death may have been a homicide is the unusually large amount of heroin found in his bloodstream. In the below clip from Soaked in Bleach, the query is put forth that if Kurt did inject the quantity of heroin that’s been stated (the toxicology report is still sealed by law), how could have he possibly fired that shotgun?