Title: IN HUMAN SKIN
Written by: Radha Bharadwaj
Type: Feature Screenplay
Logline: Logline: A sixteen-year-old boy becomes convinced that his exotic stepmother is morphing into a monster.
Synopsis: Despite his professed belief in science and reason, a sixteen-year-old boy becomes convinced that his new stepmother is a chimera - a creature that is half human, half-beast....
It is 1875 in England. The Victorian era is in full swing, with its unique mesh of rigid prudishness amongst the upper classes, and enormous scientific foment and curiosity amongst the intellectuals. This was, after all, the time of Charles Darwin and his revolutionary ideas regarding man's ancestry.
Luke de Bretagne is sixteen years old; proud and self-contained on the outside, deeply sensitive and imaginative inside. The heated discourse of the time, on the origin of man and the existence of God, cannot help but cast its spell on Luke. And Luke's sympathies are with his father, Raymond; the older de Bretagne is a self-proclaimed scientist and rationalist. Luke and his five-year-old brother, Basil, have been left in the care of their dead mother's sister while Raymond journeys the world on expeditions to faraway places, to see fossils of long-dead behemoths.
It comes as a huge shock to the boys when their ever-wandering father sends for them. Raymond has taken a new wife, and he now wants his sons to live with him and their stepmother in their ancestral home. Avalon is the name of that seaside home, and it is situated in the bleak Devonshire moors. Stories abound, in these desolate parts, of the Loathsome "Worm - " the gargantuan snake-dragon of yore that was put to rout by knights bearing the Cross.
A bigger shock awaits the boys when they arrive at Avalon: their new stepmother is a "darkie" - Rani Kamini, a queen from an Indian kingdom. The local church refuses to recognize this abomination of a wedding. Undeterred, the dark queen uses her money and skills to transform her husband's dreary home into a magical feast for the eyes. Nothing like it has been seen in Devonshire - but long-forgotten legends of the deadly snake-woman, Melusina, who built fantastic palaces for her knight (another Raymond!), start to surface.
It is while the queen is transforming the estate that the other people around her seem to notice transformations in the queen herself: there are spells of enormous lethargy and an inexplicable aversion to light; her canine teeth seem to be just a tad longer than normal, and great shards of sloughed off skin are seen in her room, much like the skin shed by a molting snake. When the servants discover a severed toe in the Rani's slipper, all hell threatens to break loose: just who - or what - is this creature from the East?!
Pushed to the brink of a mad panic, Luke decides to find out for himself the true nature of Rani Kamini - he spies on the queen in her bath. Rani Kamini's upper half is like any other woman; her lower half is submerged in water. But then she hoists her lower half out of the water, and something mottled and scaly, dark and gargantuan like a monstrous fish-tail, starts to rise from the tub. Luke runs away in terror. His poor father has married a "chimera" - a creature that is only half-human!
Now, Luke rallies the all-too willing church and the local villagers to his plight. Roused by their characteristic hatred of anything foreign as well as their belief in their inherent racial superiority, fuelled by myths of snake-women and dragons felled by the power of the Cross, the residents of the countryside storm the mansion.
The climax is set on the desolate cliffs of Devon. Much like Wells' Invisible Man, the monster, the freak, the changeling is ferreted out from her lair and beaten to death by the irate mob. Only when she is dead does Luke learn the truth of who - or wha - his stepmother really is. And that truth has to do with a true-life shocking deed that was done by a scientist of those times
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