May

2002, R, 95 min. Directed by Lucky McKee. Starring Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, James Duval, Nichole Hiltz, Kevin Gage, Marle Kennedy, Chandler Hecht, Will Estes.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 7, 2003

May

"I like weird," announces Adam (Sisto), the guy on whom the socially awkward and budding sociopath May (Bettis) has set her sights. This is a good thing because May certainly fits the bill, that is until she crosses the line that separates weird from demented. Then she becomes a woman spurned, and you’ve seen enough of these things to know where that leads: All hell breaks loose.

Until the mayhem takes over, May is a spunky little low-budget horror movie that knows its antecedents and conventions and tries to do them justice while keeping its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. The effect is more Corman- or Troma-like than a straight-ahead horror trajectory, however it’s a difficult blend to pull off successfully. McKee’s film only succeeds in fits and starts, but anyone interested in this kind of thing should seize this opportunity to see May because Austin is one of only three test markets in which this film is opening today. The film first premiered at Sundance in 2002 and has spent the last year awaiting theatrical release. Many of the horror geeks are certain to have a soft spot for this "revenge of the weirdos" flick, as May strikes a chord with the inner Carrie inside everyone. (Bettis, a big horror fan, coincidentally starred as Carrie in the TV remake of Stephen King’s novel.)

May also comes loaded in a nice psychological package that makes the title character’s madness a logical outcome of her perverse upbringing and extreme social isolation. Poor May, she can’t help herself. Mom treated May badly, and the young girl’s lazy eye caused her to be socially ostracized. Mom gives May a glass-encased doll and teaches her daughter that she can make her own friends with a needle and thread. Bad advice. As an adult, May’s attraction to the hands of one person, the neck of another, and the gams of yet another leads her down the old Frankenstein path. Bettis has fun with the role, although Sisto looks like a lost Travolta clone as the leading man. Horror-comedy vet Faris (Scary Movie) camps things up to the hilt as May’s come-hither lesbian co-worker at the animal veterinary clinic (where May is so helpful with the surgeries). The hand directing all this, however, seems uncertain and tentative in its marshalling techniques. Writer-director McKee’s arch comic dialogue (i.e., "We’ll hang out and eat some melons or something") is out of synch with the creepy horror he wields. Sequences are not always narratively clear or well-paced. The editing often leaves the viewer more confused than riled up. Everyone in May is plenty game to play along, but this play just ain’t the thing.

For an interview with star Angela Bettis, see "Come What May," March 7, 2003.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

May, Lucky McKee, Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, James Duval, Nichole Hiltz, Kevin Gage, Marle Kennedy, Chandler Hecht, Will Estes

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