May – USA, 2002. Dir. Lucky Mckee. Starring Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris.
Yesterday, I mentioned on Twitter that I would be talking about one of my favorite horror movies today. It’s not The Exorcist or Alien or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead or The Thing. It’s not Suspiria or Fright Night. Nope. None of those, though they all qualify as a favorite in one way or another.
This film is a little indie from 2002, released by Lions Gate and directed by the then novice filmmaker Lucky Mckee. Adam mentioned it the other day in his guest post along with The Hitcher.
This movie is called MAY.
I love this movie. I also have a long history with this movie; it was one of my darlings in college and I used it as the center piece in several papers, including one of my finals my senior year. I’ve analyzed it, picked through it, and come out on the other side with a number of cultural theory observations. I could go on about a few of them, how MAY plays with themes of identity and identification, sexual awareness, objectification, voyeurism, feminist film theory, fear of the monstrous other… I could do that. But I won’t.
Hey, come on now, I’m not in school anymore!
That all being said, it’s actually been a while since I last watched May. For some reason I don’t own this movie. Why don’t I own this movie?? I need to own it! I will fix that. Eventually. But because I don’t own it, I don’t think I’ve actually watched it start to finish since college. Since I finished that last, final paper. And I’ve missed it. I’ve missed May.
When I first talked to Adam about the movies he was going to include in his post, I was really excited that he mentioned May. I hadn’t seen The Hitcher yet so I didn’t really get that connection, but if he could name MAY and The Hitcher in the same sentence, well hell, I’m in for that. Now that I’ve seen both, I get it.
The Hitcher is a story about the twisted father/son relationship between Jim Halsey and John Ryder. It’s also a story of madness and the things that push us over the edge. At its heart, MAY is about much the same thing.
May, the title character played in a superb performance by Angela Bettis, is an awkward 20-something who has almost no knowledge of interpersonal relationships. Forget dating and sex, she doesn’t really even know how to have friends. She’s sweet though and as we get to know her, we grow to really like her. She’s odd in an endearing sort of way and a lot of her initial awkwardness is relateable. Who hasn’t done something embarrassing in front of a crush? Who hasn’t daydreamed or longed for a little human contact when they’ve felt lonely? I sure have.
It’s because we like May so much that this movie is so effective. Since this is a horror movie, you can probably guess that things don’t go all that well for May. Some of it is misunderstanding, some of it is inexperience, but some of it… some if it is a little more “weird” than we might be comfortable with. Her weirdness and idiosyncrasies start small but increase in such a way that by the time we’ve followed her into full blown madness, it’s too late to back out. We’re in it until the end.
Unlike The Hitcher, there is no “other” propelling May along. She is here alone. Her tragic journey is essentially of her own making. Sure, things don’t always go the way she wants them to in her relationships, she puts herself out there only to face rejection and that hurts. We know that hurts, who hasn’t been rejected by a lover or a friend? Still, we cope with it and move on. May doesn’t. Maybe she doesn’t know, maybe it’s just the crazy, but May doesn’t move on. She lets the crazy lead her actions. To a violent, campy, sad end.
MAY is a slasher, sure, but it’s not a slasher in your traditional sense. There isn’t a killer stalking hapless co-eds or any of that. We aren’t watching for the next creative kill. MAY only really moves into slasher territory late in the game and when it does, it’s as glorious as it is disturbing. Since we’ve been with May from the beginning, we want her to win. We’re identifying with the killer completely. We’re identifying with her madness. Until we get to that ending, that crazy, mad ending. Then we see the consequences of our actions. It’s not happy place we go to.
I love this movie. Have I mentioned that? I love how it deals with her madness, I love where it all leads. Yes, it’s completely campy. I love that part too. I think the actors all do wonderful jobs in a film that relies so heavily on their performances – Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris – they’re all great. I love Mckee’s direction. Of course I can see where this is the film of a new filmmaker, some of the silly moments. However, all of the silliness fits into the world of this story and that in turn makes a lot of things forgivable. At least in my mind.
MAY makes me happy. It really does. I dunno, maybe I’m a little biased in my love since I have spent so much time with this one. I don’t really think so though. What do you all think? Seen May? Am I wrong? Opinions?