May review by The Grim Ringler

Few movies can really capture the essence of what it means to be alone and to long for the touch, sound, care of another person. Sure, there are movies that can capture the loneliness of it all and the sadness, but few have ever touched upon the madness that come with it, the anger and rage that can change someone into all but a monster. In his first film, director Lucky McKee captures that virtual rotting of the soul in a film that, while not perfect, is so heart wrenchingly dark and sad that it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the story of May.

Always over-protected and babied by her mother (due to her having a gimpy eye for which her mother made her wear an eye-patch as a child), May (the wonderful Angela Bettis) must now, as an awkward adult, try to find a life for herself and real friends. As a child her only friend had been a doll her mother had made as a child herself, a doll May was never allowed to touch as it was in glass, but which would be her ‘best friend’. And so it does, becoming (for reasons we can’t know, which does take away from the film a bit) May’s only friend and confidante, slowly becoming, to May, as real as any flesh and blood friend would be. Never speaking but somehow talking to May, giving her poor advice, cracking the glass of her case when she is upset with May. This doll, which never moves, becomes a real character in the film, silently destroying May as May tries desperately to find a real, flesh and blood person to share her life with. She finds this in Adam, an enigmatic mechanic she begins to watch as she eats her lunches, obsessed by his beauty, his hands, wanting more than anything to feel someone’s touch, to feel his touch. She finally manages to speak to Adam, after he initiates a conversation, and it seems that May finally has someone to talk to, to be with, someone who can even appreciate her darker quirks. Things don’t quite work out though for May when she tries to mimic a creepy scene of carnal devouring from a movie he’d made during their own first attempt at making love. Adam leaves then, looking at her as if she is a thing and not a person, and again she is alone, screaming at her doll as Adam leaves, blaming it for telling her to do the wrong thing. May stalks Adam afterwards, desperate to make him want her again, to make him take her into his hands again, and in so doing discovers he has moved on, and thinks she is a freak, just like everyone else. Heartbroken, May turns to her coworker, a beautiful nympho that finds May’s ‘quirks’ (like cutting her forefinger when she is bored, eek!) sexy, and May, thinking her co-worker wants her, and not just another conquest, lets herself fall into bed with the girl. She finds out very quickly how wrong she was though when she finds her co-worker seducing another woman when May stops by at her house unannounced. Crushed again, May spirals into depression, everyone she’s reached out to turning on her, telling her she’s a freak but wanting to badly to reach out and touch someone. She turns, as a last grasp at hope, to a day care for the blind, where she sets out to help a girl that is much like herself, isolated and alone, wanting to perhaps help her come out of her shell. This too backfires and leads to the destruction of her only real friend, her doll, during sort of show and tell in which she’d brought it to tell the children about. And finally, when she has lost everything, May finally becomes the monster everyone told her she is, choosing finally to create a friend that will not leave her, a friend that will not laugh at her, a friend that cannot leave. A friend of flesh, blood, and bone.

There are, sadly, quite a few problems with the film, the biggest being that we are never shown why it is May goes a bit nutso. I mean, sure, she was picked on because of her eye, and we see that her mother treats her as if she is ‘special’, but that’s it. And that is a problem because to believe the course she takes, the downward spiral she goes into, we need to see her dark past. We need to see her pain. But these problems become smaller when you see how well this film is written and acted, both coming together wonderfully in the person of Bettis who truly makes May her character. But then McKee brings a depth to May that many filmmakers wouldn’t bother with, making her pain evident in everything she does until she, and we with her, are pushed into the darkest places of the human heart. This film could very easily become Carrie in so many ways, not the least of which is Bettis who played old Scary Carrie in the sequel, but while May dances on the line, it never becomes a shadow-puppet re-interpretation, instead carving out its own dark niche in the same dark realm as Carrie. The thing that struck me more than anything else though was just how far McKee was willing to push things, taking the film to levels of darkness I really didn’t think he would, the amazing thing being that he doesn’t even really make the film that gory. Relying more on mood and emotional content to deliver the creeps.

May, while far from a perfect film, is a very effective, very dark psychological horror film and it marks what looks to be a very promising career for its director/writer Lucky McKee. There is a lot of hype from the horror press about McKee and the film in particular, and for good reason, and while the film isn’t as great as it may have been, it is pretty damn good and will leave you with a moderately chilled spine well after you’ve seen it. Highly recommended.

8 out of 10 Jackasses
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