Screen Gems

This weekend, follow an adult performer on the path to murder

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.

The Serpentine: King Cobra

Writer/director Justin Kelly tackled the real-life scandal that embroiled adult gay performer Brett Corrigan (played here by Garrett Clayton in his first adult role) in this sordid, steamy drama. In 2005, Corrigan made his adult video debut, working for adult video magnate and general creeper Stephen Kocis (Christian Slater). Two years later, Kocis would be dead, murdered by two business rivals Joe Kerekes (James Franco) and Harlow Cuadra (Keegan Allen). King Cobra follows the rise of Corrigan and concurrent decline of Kerekes & Cuadra in the lead-up to Kocis’ death. What precipitated the killing, and was Corrigan involved?

For all Kelly’s technical polish, a sexpot turn by Clayton, and an outstanding character performance by Slater, King Cobra defies meaning. Kelly doesn’t hold back on the salaciousness–or frankly, grossness–of the adult industry, or how the sudden influx of money, fame and sex can corrupt healthy minds. By the time the film ends, the numerous sex scenes feel less like sex-positive celebrations than scenes of strung-out addicts wasting time before inevitable self-destruction. In a similar fashion, the characters–including Corrigan–aren’t so much figures to root for or idolize as exploitative swine that become more and more reprehensible with each passing scene. Then again, that might be the point: as with Corrigan’s videos, the joy and innocence is only an illusion.

Well-acted and explicit, King Cobra has an elusive quality about it when it comes to its characters. Does the film venerate them, or see them as scum? Watch and decide for yourself.

Streams on Amazon, VUDU, iTunes & YouTube.