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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #12

Posted: July 15th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted January 2004)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

The Fantastic Forbis world of Film, Part 2

May (dir: Lucky McKee)

May is a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies.

To be fair, it’s also a horror movie for people who do like horror movies, which makes it a horror movie for pretty much everyone, and not to be missed.

The set up is as follows. May Canady (Angela Bettis) is a socially awkward young woman with a wandering eye (corrected by glasses and contacts) and a penchant for talking to the ceramic doll given to her as a child. Having grown up with no real friends, May’s interactions with others are strained, often to a comical degree, and I found myself watching her with equal parts pity and bemusement. Having recently passed into the realm of womanhood, May becomes attracted to Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a mechanic whose shaggy mane and blue-collar clothing make him look like an amalgamation of all the members of The Strokes. In particular, May is fascinated by Adam’s hands, bringing to mind the Seinfeld episode in which George becomes a hand model (a reference that’s vaguely alluded to in the film.) Adam initially finds a certain charm in May’s naiveté and the two hit it off. But he soon notices a darker side to the waifish ingénue’s behavior and spurns her, sending her reeling into the arms of Polly, a lesbian cad and co-worker of May’s played by Anna Faris (Scary Movie).

As May is exposed to both the pleasures and perfidy that are inherent in modern sexual politics, she becomes more and more unhinged, and her psychological disintegration is represented by the slow cracking of the case in which her favorite doll is ensconced. Finally, May snaps and decides that since everyone has at least one ‘perfect’ part, she’ll take the best parts of everyone and combine them into a ‘perfect’ friend.

What will non-horror fans like about May? For starters, it’s original. May doesn’t go anywhere near the predictable path of a slowly mounting body count that most horror flicks follow, and instead looks to May’s disturbing inner battles to create tension. And cinematography buffs will appreciate May‘s eclectic angles and set design. While I’ve read reviews that compare the film to the work of Italian horrormeister, Dario Argento, I found myself more reminded of Cronenberg (The Brood, Naked Lunch) on his good days. May also has a contemporary feel, showing young adults who have a modern set of sexual mores as opposed to the pre-HIV mantra of ‘Let’s fuck anything’ that most accessory slasher movie characters seem to inherit. (This is may be the first horror film truly aimed at Generation Y).

Finally, May has an intellectual girth that would appeal to highbrow viewers – it’s a reflection on the lonely individuals who fall through the cracks of society yet yearn for normal interaction. But lowbrow horror buffs (a group to which I proudly claim membership) will find plenty to like too. Though the bloodshed doesn’t start until late in the game, it’s by no means sparse. And director Lucky Mckee proves more than capable of creating an unsettling mood throughout the film, imbuing the viewer with the notion that something’s wrong here, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it. Combine all that with – praise Jesus! – lesbian scenes with the divinely beautiful Anna Faris, and May definitely passes the mustard for the Fangoria set.

This is not to say May is perfect. I found the title character’s transition from timid geek to murderous chick a bit too sudden. (Though Angela Bettis certainly comes across as a capable actress – it’s more a flaw of editing). And the final concept of May Frankensteining together a perfect person wasn’t particularly intriguing.

Nonetheless, you could do a lot worse. The film is an excellent example of a self-actualized voice sneaking from the sidelines of cinema and using the limitation of a low budget as an impetus to get creative. The film easily trounces such recent genre offerings as Darkness Falls and Fear Dot Com, both of which operated with bigger stars and greater FX budget. With a little luck, the creative forces behind May can go far in the movie world.

Wil Forbis

Wil writes for the delectable Acid Logic webzine, as well as for this crackin' outfit here. He's also an obvious habitual liar, going on how he describes himself in his other writings. Truth is, Wil is a two foot tall computerised metal monster who likes nothing better than to CRUSH, CRUSH and CRUSH humanity to within an ounce of its puny life. When he's not CRUSHING, he enjoys tennis and jogging.


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