Spooktober Day 23: May

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Oh May.

I remember when I first saw May I was a high schooler who frequented a local video store, to the point where all the employees knew me (and would often give me recos to my delight) and one day I was told I should see May. It was one that I loved, (watched twice before returning) and swooned about gratefully to the video clerk. While the next film recommended was not very good (I shall not name) I am still thankful for this. I’d like to think it would have found its way to me eventually, anyway, but at the time, I kind of needed it.

Us film lovers are like magnets to quality flicks. At least, I like to think so.

source: Lions Gate Films

There was something immediately intriguing about the film, in large part because of the lead performance by Angela Bettis. I couldn’t imagine another May. Even when it’s uncomfortable to watch (and believe me at times, it is) it’s riveting, and you still root for May no matter what she gets up to.

May is a bit of an outcast, feeling isolated as a child because of her lazy eye, and social anxiety. Her closest friend is a doll she is gifted, which remains true even as an adult. When she first sees Adam (Jeremy Sisto) she’s instantly fixated, especially by his hands, and while he seems interested at first, she eventually pushes him away with her intensity. He’s not the first, only the most pursued, she also starts seeing her coworker Polly (Anna Faris) as she tries to heal from Adam, but that, as well, begins to fall apart. The way she puts it back together, well, is a bloody, twisted weave.

“So many pretty parts and no pretty wholes.”

She just wants to be seen. Don’t we all? Yes, she doesn’t handle the pressure of this need so well, but you’re still empathetic to her plight. May meanders the line between odd and ultimately disturbed, with moments of her mental health fraying, until she reaches her eventual stony demeanor. Even from the start there’s a coldness to her. She is interested in connection, but seems just as fascinated in the end of things as she is in the beginning, the unraveling we much as the mending. There’s a lot of loose threads in life that she focuses on, often of the macabre sort, and at some point, she’s unable to keep them sown together.

Throughout the film she speaks, often yelling, at her doll. Each time she suffers, the glass around the doll cracks, a noise that sounds as if it’s embedded in her skull. Lucky McKee writes and directs with careful consideration for May, without holding back from showing how the box of her own making is shattering, and somebody is bound to get hurt.

The film propels into its third act with May determined to craft her perfect companion. Her restless spirit and troubled mind are suddenly at ease, she’s determined, as if she’s found her violent calling. She’s empowered, and her sudden assuredness is terrifying. Her boldness by the end, is truly unnerving, and her transition all the more when we see the final shot.

source: Lions Gate Films

There is often an awkwardness that calls on us all, and with May, you find yourself pleading with the screen, hoping things will change and work out. What is she ultimately hoping for? You’ll have to watch and see, but both director and star do a terrific job of making us feel her point of view, while never shying away from seeing her as others do. It’s a complex relationship to say the least.

All of this is done with a quality that’s quite engaging. As a character study, May is fascinatingly weird, and her tale is brought to life with a wonderful score and an overall creepy vision that builds tension while grossing us out in equal measure.

I have a affinity and soft spot for May that made it so I just had to include this film in this months list. It’s been influential in my love for horror, and in my own writing. It’s gone under the radar for many, but it shouldn’t. A little black humor, some Frankenstein nods, and a killer female lead, what’s not to like?

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