31 Screams in October, Vol. 2, #22: May (2002)

Posted: October 23, 2015 in Movie Review
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May (2002)

Director: Lucky McKee

Starring: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, James Duval

Were I allowed only one word to describe this movie, it would have to be “awkward.” That word perfectly sums up both the lead character and the way she makes the audience feel throughout most of “May.” The most hard-to-watch aspects of horror movies are generally found either in their levels of gore or (in the case of ghost stories) their “BOO!” moments. Neither is the case, here. Oh, yes, there will be blood, but it’s strangely calming. It’s the awkward, anti-social behavior of May which has me wincing and looking away from the screen.

May Canady (Angela Bettis) came into this world with bad luck. She was born with a lazy eye which, as a child, she kept covered up with an eyepatch. This inspired the kids at school to inquire as to whether she might be a pirate. Judging by their visible disappointment in her negative reply, it makes me wonder if we’re supposed to believe they were hoping she was one. Just like every other socially awkward girl in a horror movie, May also had a certifiably insane mother. We only see her at the beginning, and never discover whether she’s dead or if May simply no longer lives with her, but the crazy bitch does her damage early, giving May a creepy looking doll that she says was hers. She tells her daughter that the doll can never come out of its box, that it’s special. Worst of all, she offers this horrible advice: “If you can’t find a friend, make one.” A surefire path to loneliness for a sane person, but guidelines for homicide to someone more unstable.

May’s biggest problem with social contact is that no one is “perfect.” There’s always an aspect of an individual for her to fixate on, but then something else about them ultimately disappoints her. She’s never been in a relationship before. Probably because she can’t even get through the talking stage. Often, someone will try to start a conversation with May, which is then followed by a period of silence before May finally finds the courage to speak. One of these people is Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a hunky young man whose most distinguishing feature, May has decided, is his hands. With Adam making the majority of the moves, the two begin dating. Eventually, May screws it up, first by obsessively calling him and showing up at his house unannounced, openly admitting to standing outside his front door for hours. But the dealbreaker comes after Adam shows his college student horror short film. Not freaked out at all by the sight of a romantic couple literally devouring one another, May bites Adam’s lip during a makeout session, smearing his blood on her face just like in the movie. He’s done with her after that.

Injured by Adam, May turns to Polly, a lesbian co-worker at the pet hospital where May is employed. Polly, excellently played by Anna Faris (still sporting her “Scary Movie” jet black dye job), is a little ditzy and a lot flirtatious. Polly’s most attractive feature is her neck. Her imperfection, May points out, is the mole on her hand.She’s also not one who takes relationships all that seriously, which is more unfortunate for her than it is for May. When May catches Polly with another woman, she takes it as a betrayal, and drops from social inadequacy to total numbness.

Even working with a group of blind kids has ended in disaster, with May foolishly bringing her doll to introduce to the children who cause her to drop it and smash the glass case. A fellow misfit named Blank (James Duval, decked out in full punk gear) tries to befriend her, but May’s only interest is his Frankenstein tattoo. At May’s house, Blank finds Polly’s cat in May’s freezer, May having killed it in a fit of rage. Disgusted, Blank calls her a freak. For May, this is the last straw, and she kills him with a pair of scissors to the head. May undergoes a bit of a transformation after this. On Halloween night, she dresses up like her doll and her personality changes. Gone is the stammering and the inability to look people directly in the eyes. May is now calm, confident… and evil. She visits Polly first, slitting her throat with scalpels stolen from the animal hospital, using them again to kill Polly’s girlfriend, Ambrosia. She next visits Adam and his new girlfriend, killing both of them as well.

All through these events, she has been dragging a cooler around. When she returns home, she opens the cooler to reveal the various body parts she has taken from her victims: Polly’s neck, Ambrosia’s legs, Blank’s arms, Adam’s hands, and Adam’s girlfriend’s ears. May has decided to take her mother’s advice quite literally and, using her sewing talents, fashions a patchwork “friend.” But something is still missing. Her new friend cannot see her, she cries. So, May makes a personal sacrifice, giving the doll her own lazy eye. The movie ends with May’s Frankenstein-like “friend” seemingly coming to life, raising a hand to comfort her. I don’t see how this can be taken literally, as May had been seen earlier hearing and seeing cracks appearing in her doll’s glass cage that weren’t really there, and talking to the doll as though it were talking back to her… which it was not. So, why then should we believe that her “friend” could come to life despite the absence of internal organs?

Despite the ludicrous final image, and despite how difficult it is to watch May stumble through her own awkwardness at times, “May” is a strange hybrid of slasher movies and the Frankenstein legend. That makes it unique, which I can’t help but be pleased with. I’m also pleased with the casting of recognizable actors as May’s victims. Anna Faris almost steals the movie as Polly. Angela Bettis is the one actor in the film with which I was the least familiar. I was certain I’d seen her in at least one other thing. But I didn’t know until I checked IMDb that she’d made two guest appearances late in the fifth season of “Dexter,” as the first victim/devotee of that season’s main villain. If it looks like she’s auditioning for “Carrie,” here, you’re not far off; Bettis actually starred as Carrie White in the 2002 TV remake.

I can only give “May” a halfhearted recommendation. I’m impressed that it goes places which I haven’t gotten used to seeing in a horror movie, even as it does use some conventional methods to take us there. However, the characters in this movie are just so hard to care about. They’re all either too crazy or too shallow. You should have at least one relatable character in any story, and I don’t personally see “May” as having one. Should curiosity prevail, go ahead and check it out. Otherwise, there are plenty of other, better horror movies out there for you to seek out first.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    As you have described so well, this movie should at least get bonus points for a clever story line. If it ever comes up late at night, I might give it a look!

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