May (2002) Movie Review

Lucky McKee’s “May” is certainly one of the best horror movies you’re liable to see, but it’s also one of the worst horror movies when it comes to repeat viewing. This isn’t a movie you’ll want to see again and again. While the excellence in craftsmanship across the board is without question, the film is simply not audience friendly, and as a result one viewing will be more than enough for most people, myself included.

“May” stars Angela Bettis (“Carrie”) as May, a troubled young woman who struggles mightily with a desire to love and be loved, but can’t seem to overcome her instinctive urges. Unfortunately her urges inevitably brand her “different”, “weird”, and “a freak”. Possible love comes in the form of mechanic and aspiring horror filmmaker Adam (Jeremy Sisto), whose hands May finds irresistible. Another attraction is Polly (Anna Faris), a lesbian co-worker who fancies the shy and awkward May. But when chances at love turns sour and her hopes are dashed, young May starts to lose it, and slowly but surely gives in to her more dangerous instincts…

For its first hour, “May” plays out as a slightly warped take on single life, young love, and loneliness. It’s “Ghost World” with a noticeably perverse twist, as May maneuvers through the minefield of courtship and friendship, trying to balance what is expected of her and keeping her abnormal instincts in check all the while. This means the casting of May must be perfect, and writer/director McKee has chosen perfectly in Angela Bettis. The actress plays frumpy and odd as well as she does the cold and calculating killer that eventually surfaces. Here, May seeks to make true her mother’s motto of, “If you can’t find a friend, then make one.” Bettis deserves all the superlatives directed at her. She is that good.

If Bettis is the central core of the movie, Jeremy Sisto (“Wrong Turn”) does equally well as the studly Adam, who is strangely attracted to May but bolts when her strangeness becomes too much. Never really the film’s villain, Adam comes across as human more than anything else. He’s capable of callous actions, but still sensitive enough to lie to May in an attempt to spare her feelings. The other love factor is Anna Faris (“Scary Movie”), playing a lipstick lesbian with wild aplomb. Faris is sexy in the role, and her occasionally air headed attempts to seduce May adds to the twisted flavor that permeates the movie.

But if the first hour plays out like a kinkier version of “Ghost World”, then the final 30 minutes is “Halloween” with a gritty, realistic edge. In order to balance the giddy strangeness of the first half with the bloody second, McKee sprinkles some much needed humor throughout the film. In one funny scene, after May has realized what she must do and sets about to get it done, May humorously measures the oblivious Polly for a future beheading. May’s own personality shifts a bit in the second half, taking on that of a surgeon’s — clear, concise, and purposeful.

While never gratuitously bloody, “May” is still pretty bloody when all is said and done. There are dismemberments and more than one ill-advised use of a scalpel or two. May, who assists a vet at a clinic for a living, knows her way around cutting instruments, a fact that proves deadly for those who have wronged her. And a sharp scalpel in the hands of a woman who thinks chomping down on her date’s tongue with her teeth is perfectly acceptable foreplay is a bad, bad thing indeed.

As mentioned, while I found “May” to be one of the best horror films from both a technical and creative aspect, I would never voluntarily watch it again. The film closes out with a particularly downbeat ending, and there isn’t enough light moments sprinkled throughout the film to make repeat viewing bearable. I like horror movies, but “May” is more than that. This makes the film very original, but it also makes it very hard to take.

Lucky McKee (director) / Lucky McKee (screenplay)
CAST: Angela Bettis …. May Dove Canady
Jeremy Sisto …. Adam Stubbs
Anna Faris …. Polly

Buy May on DVD