Mysterious Skin

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet and Michelle Trachtenberg
Tartan DVD
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3485
Certificate: 15
Available 24 October 2005

In the same Kansas town, at the age of eight Neil McCormick and Brian Lackey both have profound experiences that will forever change their lives. Brian wakes up having lost five hours of his life, he grows up convinced that he has been abducted by aliens. Neil is sexually awakened following an encounter with a pedophiliac football coach, twisted by his experience he uses his sexuality as a weapon. Unable to be contained by such a small town Neil is drawn to New York and Brian through his half memories is drawn to Neil, their meeting illuminates their past and provides a form of resolution for their futures...

Mysterious Skin is directed by Gregg Araki, who seems to have spent his career in exploring the seedy side of human nihilism in such films as The Doom Generation, Nowhere, and Totally F*cked Up, offers us another slice of sexual angst and general confusion. Based on the superior novel of the same name by Scott Heim, it represents one of Araki's better films. Thematically, the movie explores the same twisted landscape, though doesn't quite elevate itself into the same league as other movies like Happiness and Palindromes.

The principle actors all acquit themselves admirably. Brady Corbet, who plays Brian, is a million miles from his portrayal of Alan Tracy in Thunderbirds. He plays Brian as a bittersweet teen obviously traumatised by whatever happened to him at eight, finding difficulty in his sexual relationship. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is almost unrecognisable from his role of Tommy in 3rd Rock from the Sun. His journey, as Neil, into degradation and self loathing is charted with harrowing accuracy. Michelle Trachtenberg has never looked as good as Wendy, Neil's female friend, and as an actress she has grown significantly in her abilities since she played Buffy's sister in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The biggest fault with the film is that if you haven't worked out what happened to Brian when he was eight, half an hour into the film, the reveal, about forty minutes in, kind of ruins the ending of the film - making it feel little more than a reprise for all those who were either asleep or not paying attention.

The soundtrack is beautiful, as it should be, written by The Cocteau Twins, who have been producing their particular form of ethereal music for many years now. Played through 5.1 or DTS it adds a whole new layer of ambience to the film.

The disc is resplendent with extras. Sound is either stereo, 5.1 or DTS, but you really must use the latter two to get the best out of the soundtrack. The film comes with an informative director's commentary and various interviews, including the original novelist (he looks twelve for gods sake), plus the trailer thrown in for good measure.

So a good film and well worth adding to your collection of edgy films. Problem is the themes have been better explored elsewhere.

Charles Packer

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