Mysterious Skin (film)

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Mysterious Skin (film)
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating (USA): NC-17
Director: Gregg Araki
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil

Chase Ellison as young Neil
Brady Corbet as Brian
George Webster as young Brian

Mysterious Skin is a 2004 Dutch-American drama film directed by American filmmaker Gregg Araki, who also wrote the screenplay based on Scott Heim's 1996 novel of the same name.

Mysterious Skin tells the story of two pre-adolescent boys who are sexually abused by their baseball coach, and how it affects their lives in different ways into their young adulthood. One boy becomes a reckless, sexually adventurous male prostitute, while the other retreats into a reclusive fantasy of alien abduction.[1]


Born in 1972 in Kansas, 8-year-olds Neil McCormick and Brian Lackey are sexually abused by their baseball coach. Both boys are targets for abuse due to their dysfunctional families: Neil's single mother, Ellen, is neglectful and preoccupied with a string of boyfriends, while Brian's parents are on the verge of divorce.

Neil showed homosexual proclivities at an early age—he was fascinated with male models depicted in his mother's Playgirl magazines. He interprets the coach's abuse as an initiation into sexuality and becomes sexually compulsive, being mainly attracted to bearish, middle-aged men. Neil begins to prostitute himself at the age of fifteen. Eventually Neil leaves home, drifts into petty crime, and becomes a prostitute in New York City. His friend Wendy, who harbors an unrequited crush, describes Neil as having not a heart, but "a bottomless black hole, that you fall into." Neil does begin to show a compassionate side, particularly following an encounter with a man who was dying from AIDS, and wanted nothing more than a backrub, only to feel touched. The encounter leaves Neil to withdraw from his life as a prostitute and take a job as a cashier. One day on his way home, he is tricked by a large man into giving him a ride home. The man makes him snort cocaine before raping and beating him.

Brian reacts to the abuse by developing psychogenic amnesia and forgetting the events. He remembers waiting for his parents to drive him home from a baseball game, followed by a gap of several hours after which he regained consciousness, bloodied and hiding under the crawl space of his home. For many years Brian suffers from chronic nose bleeds and bed-wetting. In his teen years, Brian becomes nerdy and withdrawn, perceived by others as nearly asexual. He has unsettling recurring dreams about being touched by a strange, bluish hand. These odd dreams lead Brian to suspect that he and another boy may have been abducted by aliens. At the age of 18, Brian meets a young woman named Avalyn who also believes she was abducted by aliens. They begin to form a fragile friendship; though, when she takes a romantic interest in Brian and touches him sexually, he reacts with intense panic and refuses to speak to her again.

While trying to untangle his confused memories, Brian sees a photo of his childhood baseball team, recognizing a young Neil as the boy from his bizarre dreams. Taking the initiative to meet his former teammate, Brian instead meets Neil's friend Eric, and through him learns about their common acquaintance. After being beaten and raped by a trick, Neil leaves New York City and returns home. Eventually, the two young men meet for the first time in over a decade. After breaking into the home that was previously rented by the baseball coach, Neil explains how the coach groomed both boys to make the abuse seem normal and acceptable, and how a bluish porch light shining through the bedroom window gave the abusive incidents an eerie atmosphere. He then told Brian that the coach made them kiss each other before he kissed them both himself, then made them fist his buttocks. Brian breaks down and collapses into Neil's arms as Christmas carolers sing Silent Night.[1]


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