King Cobra: Murder and mayhem in the dark world of gay porn

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For a while Brent Corrigan was gay porn's wildly popular Twink golden boy. Everything went horribly wrong when Bryan Kocis, the porn auteur who made Corrigan a star, was brutally murdered. The culprits were competing pornographers who wanted to buy out Corrigan's contract--Kocis had refused.

In "King Cobra," openly gay writer/director Justin Kelly offers a brutal gay film noir which recreates that disturbing but true story. It's the second feature for Kelly, who's debut offering "I Am Michael" was a hit on the film festival circuit in 2015. In "Michael," James Franco stars as a gay man who professes to go straight with the help of Jesus--his many late night phone calls to his former boyfriend (Zachary Quinto) suggest that he's not as confident in his new life as he claims to be. Kelly told SFGN that "I Am Michael" gets a general release in 2017.

With "King Cobra," Kelly establishes himself as a bold filmmaker."Cobra" is dark, graphic, and often unnerving, but there are also some wonderfully comic moments. During one hilarious interlude, gay porn star/escort Harlow (Keegan Allen) eggs on a scantily clad, nerdy client who worships his feet.

For most of it's running time, "King Cobra" exposes the truth about the false friendships and relationships that are often forged in a business where people pretend to love each other so they can have the sex which comes with the job. "King Cobra" also shines a light on the elephant in the room: many in the porn business are either unstable or unable to maintain healthy relationships. As the story unfolds, their vulnerabilities and their need for real love becomes clear.

At the film's IMDB page, one reviewer took Kelly to task for painting such a negative portrait of the industry and of gay men.

"There are porn stars and murderers both straight and gay," Kelly told SFGN. "Good guys and bad guys both straight and gay. As a director who's gay, I am presenting well-rounded gay characters who I seek to understand rather than vilify. Telling these stories does not send a message that all gay people are ‘bad.’"

"Kelly added that in both his films he is telling phenomenal stories with interesting characters."

"Who they sleep with is secondary," he said.

The cast includes a number of straight actors who were required to play fairly graphic, albeit R rated, gay sex scenes, such as Christian Slater, who plays Bryan Kocis (renamed Stephen) in the film.

"I think that most actors love a challenge and love to try something different," Kelly said. "Everyone involved in Cobra was perhaps a tad nervous up front but saw the dark, sexy subject matter as rather intriguing and for a chance to show another side of themselves as actors."

The filmmaker gave particularly high marks to James Franco, who plays Joe, the psychotic gay pornographer who plots his competitor's murder – Franco and Kelly have collaborated twice thus far.

"We have fun working together and I guess we're both drawn towards stories that deal with controversial or difficult subject matter because the challenge involved in bringing these stories and characters to life is rewarding," he said. "Franco was instrumental in both of my films off the ground--and many other queer films--and we have more in the works."

Kelly said that Sean Paul Lockhart (Brent Corrigan) gave King Cobra his blessing but chose not to be involved. Lockhart now performs in R rated independent films.

Kelly hopes that both his films will open people's hearts and minds. "Aside from being entertained, I hope that people can take something away similar as with ‘I am Michael,’" he said. "People who might be shunned or judged--an ex-gay, a porn star, a murderer--might have more of a story to tell. Rather than vilifying people, we should try to understand what motivates devious behavior."

"King Cobra" is open in theaters and on Video on Demand platforms.    


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