HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Sixteen – 10/16/18

10/16 – 2002: MAY

“If you can’t find a friend…MAKE ONE.”

Not the exact tag line, but it does capture the main idea behind what I have come to regard, as the best film that writer/director LUCKY MCKEE and his main muse, ANGELA BETTIS, have ever collaborated on. And we’re talking about a duo who also gave us the excellent MASTERS OF HORROR episode, “Sick Girl”, and the movie that almost ran people out of the theater, THE WOMAN, McKee’s excellent team-up with late, great horror author JACK KETCHUM (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).

I have always been of the half-joking opinion, that there should be a law that states that Angela never be allowed to do movies with any other director but Lucky, and MAY is the reason why. It’s a brilliant, horrific and heartbreaking meditation on loneliness, self-hatred and just that overall feeling of “not being able to fit in.” What would have happened in CARRIE, how would the story have played out if she’d still been bullied, maligned and ostracized, but she had no telekinetic powers to lash out with? MAY provides one truly unsettling and yet also depressingly dark answer to that question.

Bettis, of course, plays the title character, but before that, we see her as a young girl – lonely and isolated, and her condition with a lazy eye doesn’t help things at all.  Her mother gives her a “friend’ to keep her company: a doll in a glass case. But not just any doll.  This is one of the creepiest dolls I think I’ve ever seen in film history – it makes ANNABELLE look like Raggedy Ann!

The grown-up May, some years later, loves to sew and make things. That aptitude translates into what she does for her day job, working for a veterinarian, helping with the animals and even with some surgeries.

Her lesbian co-worker, Polly, (ANNA FARIS with one of her great, subtly funny turns) has something of a crush on May, but things between them stay mostly in the ‘friend zone’.

It’s only when she meets a hunky mechanic named Adam (JEREMY SISTO), that May begins to see the possibilities of having a life beyond her mostly solitary existence. It’s her ‘uniqueness’ that draws both Adam and Polly to her, who consider themselves to be equally “weird” people, but there’s more than a bit of miscommunication going on here.  While their own “off-beat-ness” is something of an affectation, what they’re reading as “quirky” and “interesting” about May is a whole hell of a lot more than that: May’s sanity is hanging on day-by-day, by the slenderest of threads, and it wouldn’t take much at all for it to snap like a rotten twig.  As Adam and May begin to date, he soon realizes because of certain behaviors she exhibits, that this poor girl just simply isn’t ‘all there’ and breaks it off with her.

Then, Polly decides that it’s the perfect time for them to take their friendship to the next level, until she, too, begins to see and sense what Adam did, and she also shuts May out of her life.

Remember what I said about her sanity, and about how it wouldn’t take much for her to lose it? Seems like bald-faced rejection is what finally does the trick.

I don’t want to say anymore than I have to, except that it all leads to an inevitable, bloody and devastatingly sad conclusion. All this girl ever wanted was a true friend, and even at the climax, she never really gets one.  If there were any justice in the cinematic world, Bettis should have gotten an Oscar nod out of this singular and unforgettable performance, but I doubt that the Academy, even though they recognized a movie like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – they weren’t quite ready for a film like MAY.

McKee knows at all times exactly what kind of audience he’s aiming for, and he hits the bull’s-eye every time. He does character-driven pieces like no other filmmaker I know, and MAY offers a seductive promise of a neo-Gothic brand of horror, to those fans who are always hungry for something that ventures pretty far off the beaten path of “mainstream” thrills and chills. He likes to examine the human condition in a way that is unapologetically blunt and in-your-face. You can see these attributes in most of his work, but not as sharply defined as it is in MAY.

Sisto, Faris, as well as indie fave JAMES DUVAL and WILL ESTES, all give great performances as friends or friends of May’s ‘friends’, but the responsibility for reaching out and touching the audience most profoundly, rests on Bettis’s slender shoulders, and she is more than capable of handling that task. I don’t hear too many people discussing this movie anymore, which is a damn shame. If any film is deserving of a much wider audience, MAY is definitely one of them.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT:  This is also the year that gave us RED DRAGON, DOG SOLDIERS, BUBBA HO-TEP, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, THE RING, DARK WATER, SIGNS, THE EYE and 28 DAYS LATER.


Posted by Samuel Glass

We want to hear your thoughts!