May (2002)

We reviewed May in February, but in our defense it was mostly for women in horror month. Featuring a strong female lead who is simultaneously a protagonist and antagonist, May is 2002’s way under the radar attempt at relationship horror (and much, much more). If you don’t know what I’m blathering on about, maybe go out and watch this one before you read our spoiler filled review. Otherwise, proceed below to see what we thought.

Reviewed by: Mark

 
 

Plot Synopsis

May (Angela Bettis) is a socially awkward veterinary assistant who has a preposterously difficult time fitting in with society. She obsesses about individual body parts that are perfect, but laments their connection to less perfect appendages. She is befriended by Polly (Anna Faris), the vet’s secretary. She also becomes infatuated with, and starts stalking, this totally cute dream hunk named Adam (Jeremy Sisto).

 
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May is eventually able to social engineer her way into getting Adam to date her, and they briefly hit it off. Turns out he’s into some weird art-film cannibalism shit and she is totally digging it, but when she takes it too far by biting his lip so hard he starts bleeding he decides that he’s had enough. Adam breaks it off with May in a way that she in unsure whether or not they’re actually over. When she goes to see him and overhears him discussing how crazy she is, how definitively over they are, and how he’s into this hot new thing, she snaps and we get the denouement of the film.

May puts her makeup on, gets her hair all pretty, and meets everyone she knows in murder city. She kills Polly for her neck, Polly’s girlfriend for her “gams,” Adam for his hands, and Adam’s girlfriend for her ears. When she gets them back to her place she stitches them together into a life sized doll (there’s a doll motif sprinkled throughout) only to realize that she never gave her new companion eyes. She stabs herself in the eye and plucks it from her skull to give it to her new friend. As she lays there (ostensibly dying), it gingerly reaches its arm up to embrace her. Fade to black.


What the Movie Does Right

The movie’s subject matter is one that allows it to be profoundly weird but also instantly identifiable and charming. Sure, May is a socially awkward psychopath, but she also tries to put herself out there and still struggles to fit in. We can all identify with that even if we don’t necessarily agree with where this movie goes. In the same vein, the movie leverages that approach to posit a fundamentally weird society full of people like the ditzy and aggressively sexual Polly, and the friendly idiot flirt  Blank (James Duval). In a world this strange, you kinda buy that May’s ostracization is only partially her fault.

 
Just your average punk rocker who loves rubbing ice on his nipples waiting for the bus. Nothing weird about that.

Just your average punk rocker who loves rubbing ice on his nipples waiting for the bus. Nothing weird about that.

 

The whole doll motif is also used to great effect. I didn’t touch on it earlier so here’s the rundown: May has a lazy eye, so she struggles making friends as a kid (they’re all disappointed she’s not a pirate). For her Xth birthday May’s mom gets her a doll and tells her that if she can’t make friends she can always make friends. May keeps that doll and it “speaks” to her throughout the film giving her these murderous suggestions. You never actually here the doll speaking, but is voiced by the cracking of a pane of glass on its case that is meant to mirror the cracking of May’s psyche. The scene where May finally “cracks” involves the case shattering and spreading glass fragments everywhere. Shortly thereafter the case is shown completely mended, and May swings into her full-on blood rage. It’s a well executed metaphor that is noticeably better than the content typical of the genre.

 
Doll.jpg
 

What the Movie Does Wrong

The most glaringly obvious thing here is the pacing. Despite the fact that May’s runtime is a spritely 93 minutes, it feels a bit overlong. You could praise this as a slow burn (which I totally understand) yet I still think that the runtime could have been in the low 80s. The first ⅔ of the movie is dedicated to the relationship between May and Adam, which is an important investment in screen time, however the romantic part of the movie still gradually drags the movie a bit. This is not helped by the clumsily added Polly scenes that seem schizophrenic and largely out of place.

There are also moments in this movie where logic just goes absolutely out the window. Boyfriend’s crazy ex-girlfriend clearly having an emotional break on the front porch? Sure, invite her in and expose your neck to her lots. Are you a blind kid surrounded by broken glass? Slam your hands into the ground in order to understand what’s going on. Moderately attracted to your coworker? Let her run some medical grade scalpels along your neck for the thrill of it. May is fundamentally set in a world that doesn’t (and never did) exist, and that cognitive dissonance is going to displace some people from their viewing experience.

Lastly, this movie is weirdly pro-smoking. Smoking isn’t cool. It's lame and it will kill you. Don’t smoke. This has been an A-Z Horror public service announcement.


Ratings (1-10)

Story: 6 - You got your modern day Frankenstein right here. You don’t get a lot of interweaving story elements in this one, but the content you get is solid. May paints a picture of what it can be like to be dangling on the precipice of mental break, only to have most of society pull the rug out from underneath you. That being said, the package could’ve been delivered in a 10 minute shorter box without sacrificing much.

World-Building / Immersion: 5.5 - You have to wait over an hour to get any good actual horror elements (unless you really like the awkward dating scenes). We don’t watch a lot of romance movies here at A-Z Horror because we don’t really find them that engaging. This one is a nice foray into that space, but we’re all glad once things actually start happening.

Scare-Factor: 6 - There’s some super cringey (in a good way) scenes in this movie. You got your eye stuff. You got your neck stuff. Head stabbing get you going? Well we got that here too. Scissors and scalpels are the name of the game here so if that sounds like it will make you uncomfortable then maybe you should check this out. Outside of those things, there’s not a lot here that will stick with you.

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6.5 - There is a scene wherein blood mixes with milk that is awesome in concept and poor in execution. The effects here are mostly in the judicious lack thereof bucket, but what you do see typically looks pretty solid.

Overall: 6.5 - This is a disturbing movie, but it just takes a long time to get where it wants to go. I rather like the scenes with May and Adam, but it still seems like it lacks focus. May is a decent and unique experience, but I’m not sure I’d want to put this in any kind of frequent rotation. See it if you haven’t.