Theater Thoughts


Reviewer: John Carpenter
Released by: MVD Visual
DVD Release date: 8/11/2015
Region 1
89 Mins/Not Rated
Widescreen Multiple Aspect Ratios | 16×9: Yes

To say I was a huge Nirvana fan during their peak years, as they performed and blasted the eardrums of angsty teens throughout the world, is an untrue statement. Sure, “Nevermind” got some play. “In Utero” did as well, but it wasn’t until their unplugged session for MTV that Nirvana REALLY got to me. Before then, my membership card would certainly say casual fan. Then the changes started. Bootleg discoveries began to fill the shelves and I found a seemingly endless thirst for their music, undoubtedly spurred by the band’s constant, iconic stream on MTV after the tragic death of Kurt Cobain. The band pops up in a playlist quite often, with samples of all albums peppered throughout. So, my Nirvana fandom has certainly grown over the years.

This brings us to present day, where the shine of Nirvana still lays atop mentions of grunge music and 1990s pop culture, but little else. Dave Grohl is in the stratosphere with the Foo Fighters and Courtney Love emerges for some controversy from time to time. Still collecting dust after two decades is the truth behind Kurt Cobain’s death. Many may have written it off and forgotten about that early April 1994 day, when Cobain’s lifeless body was found in what appeared to be a suicide. There were some conspiracy theories that popped up, most notably in Nick Bloomfield’s 1998 “Kurt and Courtney,” which irked Courtney Love in a major way. The year 2015 has had Cobain on the brain though. After watching this rock star struggle with heroin addiction in “Montage of Heck,” Benjamin Statler brings “Soaked in Bleach” to the table. In a manner similar to “Kurt and Courtney,” Statler provides a fairly unique take on the topic. This originality isn’t in its presentation, the reenactments and interviews have certainly been done before. The gem here is content. Former Los Angeles detective and current Private Investigator Tom Grant, was hired by Love to investigate the whereabouts of her missing husband. As events progress, it becomes painfully clear to Grant that the stories he is told and the actions he witnesses don’t seem to add up in this drug fueled, rock n’ roll world. From Love’s strange commentary and skewed truths are compounded by some lackluster and damning work done by Seattle’s police in the hours and weeks following the discovery of Cobain’s body. Statler blends his reenactment with audio bits that help construct the timeline and provide authenticity to the story being revealed. The format gives credibility to Grant’s viewpoint and raises questions of how the famed rock star spent his final days and the whirlwind that surrounded him.

It is with “Soaked in Bleach” that a topic that seemed to rest quietly comes roaring back. Personally, I had let go of the ‘suicide versus planned murder’ debate. Plenty of time has passed and it isn’t a discussion that pops up much any longer. After watching “Soaked in Bleach” and hearing how passionate Tom Grant is about the subject, it is tough not to get hooked again. There is more here than the legacy of Kurt Cobain or the unanswered questions, there seems to be a world of corruption and cover-up where authorities and Cobain’s closest friends that needs to be dealt with. After so much time has passed, and if Grant’s perspective is the definitive truth, I highly doubt there will be the type of justice fans would hope for. The documentary will give a fairly personal look into Cobain’s life and the sketch players he surrounded himself with. Grant has a bit of a goldmine here in regards to evidence and information that points toward what really happened the days leading up to Kurt’s death. With all of the smoke and mirrors out there, it is quite possible that the real truth is known by the former Nirvana lead.

MVD Visual’s DVD looks amazing. The anamorphic widescreen displays an amazing amount of detail for a DVD. So clear, there were times it seemed like a Blu-ray was playing. These ultra-sharp images are most evident in the reenactments. The camera work is high quality and this is clear with the vivid colors and background images. Some of the stock footage suffers in comparison, but that is to be expected. It is tough to take Kurt Loder’s 1994, broadcast worthy footage and upgrade it to 2015 standards. It just doesn’t work. Aside from this footage, fans will be pleased. Along with the stellar picture, “Soaked in Bleach” sports a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as well. Keep those expectations in check – there are no high quality Nirvana tunes filling up these speakers. In fact, their music doesn’t get much of a chance to shine. Dialogue levels are clear and even the old tapes in Tom Grant’s collection are about as crisp as one would expect. Rear speakers get a little play, mostly during scene transitions or montage worthy moments. All in all, the technical aspects of this disc are on point. Fans and curious bystanders will be pleased with the quality of this DVD.

There are no extra features on this disc.

“Soaked in Bleach” will definitely get your attention. It is thought provoking, regardless of where you stand on the details behind Kurt Cobain’s demise. The documentary remains engaging throughout and brings up some interesting points about Kurt’s ‘suicide.’ Benjamin Statler shows a steady hand in presenting the material in a straightforward, approachable way. The DVD, though it comes with no extra features, still manages to impress with its high quality presentation. “Soaked in Bleach” is an easy recommendation.  Personally, it should be viewed as the second half of a double bill with “Montage of Heck.” This way you have all of the bases covered from a hindsight, 2015 point of view.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Susan Pa says:

    Thanks for the great review! As a fan who has anxiously awaited the release of this truthful film that finally treats Kurt Cobain with dignity. I am happy about what you said about it. One thing I would mention is that the lack of features on the DVD is not permanent. They are going through legal approvals for all of them and Statler has said the extras should be out by the end of the year. Too bad. With the power of the film itself, the extras (which I’ve heard amounts to about 90 minutes of material, as much as or even more than the movie) would have given a big double punch. It was initially announced that the extras would be included on the first release. Since everything connected with this film is based on the investigative talents of a PI with a stellar reputation, audio tapes of all the characters, and hard forensic facts, where the need for legal approval came from is pretty easy to imagine. That is just my opinion, though, nothing more. In any event, this film is still releasing in various countries to this day and the extras are coming. One other thing is that I’d like to say about your otherwise great review is that I disagree with your recommendation that people watch Montage of Heck first before viewing SiB. MoH is just another ad nauseum repeat of the same gross misinformation and desecration of Kurt’s legacy that Courtney Love has been scurrilously orchestrating for 21 years in many books, films, and interviews. In SiB, Kurt finally gets treated with the dignity and respect that he deserves, and gets an honest portrayal of his last days of life on this earth and the events leading up to it. SiB presents Kurt as something other than a helpless, friendless, pathetic, suicidal-from-birth junkie. Like everything else Courtney’s had a hand in when it comes to Kurt Cobain, MoH desecrates him as a person and craps on the legacy of a dead man who is not here to defend himself, while she (who would have been an ex-wife had Kurt not died) laughs herself to the bank. I wish I hadn’t seen it.

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