Title: May
Release Date: 2002
Written and Directed by: Lucky McKee

Cast:
May: Angela Bettis
Polly: Anna Faris
Adam: Jeremy Sisto


Ever see one of those movies that is so utterly ridiculous, so painful to watch, that you can't really figure out why you are watching it, except perhaps a vague desire to see how it ends? Well if not, go out right now and rent May. About three-quarters of the way through May, I realized that perhaps the only intrinsic value of the film was the potential of getting an amusing writeup out of it. So, dear noders, what you are about to read represents 93 minutes of giggling, groaning, and cries of "DEAR GOD THAT IS FUCKED UP!" on my part. Enjoy!

May is a creative but shy young lady who is afflicted with a dreadful malady... LAZY EYE! When we meet May she is a blond, elfin creature wearing a HUGE black eye patch, lovingly put in place by her ever-grinning mother. She is about eight years old, and the scenes of her as a child show us the following pivotal events in her life:

1.) She is alienated at school because she looks like a pirate.

2.) She is given a "special" doll named Susie in a glass box. "If you don't have any friends, make your own!" advises May's mother, who herself made Susie. This, you see, is ominous foreshadowing.

Flash forward to May as an adult, presumably in her early twenties. She works at an animal hospital as a veterinary assistant. She spends her work days helping with surgery, stabbing her thumbs with a scalpel ("to relax"), and trying to figure out how to respond to the advances of her sexually agressive coworker, Polly, played by that chick from Scary Movie. On one of her breaks, she notices a handsome young man working on a car. "He has such beautiful hands!" May, since she has no social skills to speak of (her only friend up until this point has been Susie the doll), has some difficulty striking up a conversation with Mr. Prettyhands, but eventually manages to get his attention by rubbing his hands on her face when he falls asleep at a coffee shop. The guy's name is Adam, and though he is a weirdo who likes to make art with barbed wire and movies about erotic cannibalism between two living people, he is nowhere near as weird as May.

May is a neurotic, tremulous little weirdo who would almost be cute if she weren't such a nutcase. She is an excellent seamstress (more FORESHADOWING...) and actually comes up with some spiffy little outfits. Her style is bold and original. She runs into Adam at the laundromat, where he compliments her homemade clothes. The two of them have a moment, and start going out informally.

Their dates actually seem promising until May starts biting Adam. He is not really into the whole blood-and-pain aspect of courtship, so he starts avoiding May. May, who is certainly incredibly sexually repressed, seeks solace in the perpetually stoned-sounding Polly. Polly finds May's weirdness and propensity toward knife play alluring. There are some mild lesbian makeout scenes in this movie, but it is hard to find them arousing since the characters are so utterly...fucked up. Polly convinces May to baby-sit her cat, Loopy. Here we have such unforgettable lines as "You like pussy, don't you? Pussy...cat!"

There is sort of a bizarre subplot about eyes and blindness. When lunching in the park with Adam one day, May notices a group of blind children. She gets it into her head that she ought to volunteer to help supervise these kids; there was one blind girl who seemed to always be off by herself, and May presumably identified with her. She simply goes to the school and asks to volunteer. No character interviews, no background checks. May's mannerisms are so bizarre that I certainly would not have let her near any children I was responsible for. This volunteer effort culminates in a very disturbing scene involving lots of blood, broken glass, and screaming children. No police are called, no irate parents call in demanding to know why their little blind kids were permitted to play around broken glass. May simply goes home, covered in blood, and proceeds to kill Polly's cat.

After Loopy's untimely demise via a well-aimed ashtray, May loses any semblance of self control she may have had. Her mannerisms do become more confident; she doesn't tremble as much, and she starts aggresively going after what she wants. What she wants most of all is a friend, a perfect friend. Yet she doesn't know anyone who is totally perfect, just people who have one or two perfect parts. You can guess what happens next. The last twenty minutes or so of the film consist of little May, merrily tromping through the neighborhood with her bag of surgical tools and her industrial-size cooler. Luckily, it is Halloween, so everyone assumes that May is in costume.

Just in case anyone is actually planning to rent this movie, I will not reveal EXACTLY how it ends. Suffice it to say it is very painful, very wrong, and very, very ridiculous. If I had to rate this movie it certainly wouldn't be on any sort of system that uses stars...maybe it would score three severed heads and a spleen?

This was not so much a scary movie as a funny movie. I can't tell if the humor was intentional or not, but the DVD case gave no indication of this with such comments as "Startling, compelling, and truly original!" and "Shivery and seductive, May is a delicious little creepathon". I can't imagine anyone actually taking this film seriously. It was so bizarre, so gross, and so implausible that it became utterly silly.

The word 'may', in the sense that good old Webster uses first, has been clarified by RFC 2119, "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", along with 'should' and 'must' to ensure that specifications for interoperability. RFC 2119 refers to these words in capitals, and also states the meanings of 'should not' and 'must not'.

MAY:
This word, or the adjective "OPTIONAL", mean that an item is truly optional. One vendor may choose to include the item because a particular marketplace requires it or because the vendor feels that it enhances the product while another vendor may omit the same item.
An implementation which does not include a particular option MUST be prepared to interoperate with another implementation which does include the option, though perhaps with reduced functionality. In the same vein an implementation which does include a particular option MUST be prepared to interoperate with another implementation which does not include the option (except, of course, for the feature the option provides.)
The RFC does not define 'may not': the meaning would be mostly similar to that of 'may'; namely, that it is completly optional, and not failing to remove surplus negatives is never a bad thing.

When reviewing a genre movie, it’s important to know where the reviewer is coming from. Reviews of “May” in the horror community tend towards “nearly perfect”, “Grade A”, “one of the best of 2003", etc. while the movie’s rating on Metacritic.com, which aggregates dozens of reviews from mainstream sources, is a mere 58% (“mixed or average”)1. Horror fans saw Lucky McKee’s name in the lineup for Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series and cheered; mainstream-oriented, occasional horror watchers saw his name and said “who?” We just don't speak the same language. I’m betting McKee will go on to make another half-dozen amazing horror movies before moving on to something a little more mainstream – and getting rave reviews all across the board for that, just like David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson before him.

In the meantime, if you are one of those unfortunate souls who don’t really care for horror except for slumming with a commercial fright flick once in a while or a brief detour into Hannibal Lecter’s territory, I would advise giving “May” a miss. You won’t like it. It will frustrate you by not being bloody enough for most of the movie and far too bloody for about ten minutes. You will be annoyed that an actress as “endearing” as Angela Bettis is wasting her time in splatter cinema, and you’ll really wish you had rented something deep like “Sideways”. You may now skip to the end of the review and the first interesting softlink.

But if you are anything like a real fan of horror, you owe it to yourself to catch this unique vision of madness. Lucky McKee’s cinematic career is just beginning, and although his inexperience does show occasionally (he has a lot of fun pointing out continuity errors and “really stupid scenes” in the DVD commentary), he already has an amazing sense of character and knows just how to cross the line between nervous laughter and full-blown horror without missing a step. His writing in “May” goes back and forth over that line again and again, helped out by a fantastic acting job from Angela Bettis, who has all the makings of a legendary scream queen.

One of the things that really made “May” work for me, and probably contributed to its mainstream critical panning, is that it doesn’t dive into the easily categorized splatter zone until the time is right. It spends most of its time developing May’s character instead, and does this so well it reminds me of Guillermo Del Toro’s work in “Cronos” and “Devil’s Backbone”. May is a very weird and deeply misunderstood woman, and Bettis plays her with touching vulnerability. She has a scene early in the movie where she catches the object of her obsession sleeping with one hand in the air, and she can’t help going over to him to rub her cheek against that perfect hand. It’s creepy and, yes, it is totally implausible, but Bettis makes it work wonderfully.

Things eventually do start getting weirder after that, but it’s never quite clear how much of the weirdness is real and how much is May’s interpretation of things. The insanely frightening doll that is May’s only constant friend never does what a lesser writer/director would make it do, and in fact there isn’t a single inarguable sign of anything supernatural going on in the movie – only May, falling farther and farther off her hinges and simultaneously getting more confident and self-assured until she arrives at her own complete damnation while getting exactly what she wants.

That, my friends, is horror.

I’m giving “May” 5 Hands of Glory, and naming Lucky McKee and Angela Bettis two of the people you most want to be keeping a severed eyeball on in the horror world.




1The notable exception is Roger Ebert, who generally has a pretty good feel for horror and was the only critic listed on Metacritic.com to give “May” a perfect score. Roger, you rock!

May (?), v. [imp. Might (?)] [AS. pres. maeg I am able, pret. meahte, mihte; akin to D. mogen, G. mogen, OHG. mugan, magan, Icel. mega, Goth. magan, Russ. moche. . Cf. Dismay, Main strength, Might. The old imp. mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.]

An auxiliary verb qualifyng the meaning of another verb, by expressing: (a) Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener expressed by can.

How may a man, said he, with idle speech, Be won to spoil the castle of his health ! Spenser.

For what he [the king] may do is of two kinds; what he may do as just, and what he may do as possible. Bacon.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen The saddest are these: "It might have been." Whittier.

(b) Liberty; permission; allowance.

Thou mayst be no longer steward. Luke xvi. 2.

(c) Contingency or liability; possibility or probability.

Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. Pope.

(d) Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark.

How old may Phillis be, you ask. Prior.

(e) Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like. "May you live happily."

Dryden.

May be, ∧ It may be, are used as equivalent to possibly, perhaps, by chance, peradventure. See 1st Maybe.

 

© Webster 1913.


May, n. [Cf. Icel. maer, Goth. mawi; akin to E. maiden. .]

A maiden.

[Obs.]

Chaucer.

 

© Webster 1913.


May, n. [F. Mai, L. Maius; so named in honor of the goddess Maia (Gr. ), daughter of Atlas and mother of Mercury by Jupiter.]

1.

The fifth month of the year, containing thirty-one days.

Chaucer.

2.

The early part or springtime of life.

His May of youth, and bloom of lustihood. Shak.

3. Bot.

The flowers of the hawthorn; -- so called from their time of blossoming; also, the hawthorn.

The palm and may make country houses gay. Nash.

Plumes that micked the may. Tennyson.

4.

The merrymaking of May Day.

Tennyson.

Italian may Bot., a shrubby species of Spiraea (S. hypericifolia) with many clusters of small white flowers along the slender branches. -- May apple Bot., the fruit of an American plant (Podophyllum peltatum). Also, the plant itself (popularly called mandrake), which has two lobed leaves, and bears a single egg-shaped fruit at the forking. The root and leaves, used in medicine, are powerfully drastic. -- May beetle, May bug Zool., any one of numerous species of large lamellicorn beetles that appear in the winged state in May. They belong to Melolontha, and allied genera. Called also June beetle. -- May Day, the first day of May; -- celebrated in the rustic parts of England by the crowning of a May queen with a garland, and by dancing about a May pole. -- May dew, the morning dew of the first day of May, to which magical properties were attributed. -- May flower Bot., a plant that flowers in May; also, its blossom. See Mayflower, in the vocabulary. -- May fly Zool., any species of Ephemera, and allied genera; -- so called because the mature flies of many species appear in May. See Ephemeral fly, under Ephemeral. -- May game, any May-day sport. -- May lady, the queen or lady of May, in old May games. -- May lily Bot., the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). -- May pole. See Maypole in the Vocabulary. -- May queen, a girl or young woman crowned queen in the sports of May Day. -- May thorn, the hawthorn.

 

© Webster 1913.

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