Thursday, October 22, 2020

Making Friends: May (2002)

May (2002)
Rating: ****
Starring: Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris

May Dove Canady (Angela Bettis) only has a few things going for her, mainly the need to have the perfect friend and to be accepted for her quirks. But with her lazy left eye, shifty personality and a very sheltered childhood life hindering her goals for normalcy, May couldn't help but feel down being the odd one out, a gripe she confides with her only "friend", Suzy, a porcelain doll crafted by her mother as a gift, kept safe inside a glass display box that's never to be opened.

This, admirably, does not keep May from attempting to socialize despite being that uneducated of how real world social etiquette works. She makes her way through the days as a veterinarian assistant and even finding the time to crush on a young mechanic named Adam (Jeremy Sisto). After eventually catching on to May's little obsession with him, Adam returns some of the feelings as he sees some charm out of her weirdness and all seems to be lining up in good light for our painfully awkward girl. At least, for a while.

It isn't long before May makes a mess out of herself, going a bit overboard on a bity kiss with Adam, drawing blood and sensually smearing herself with it to look (in her mind) attractive. This rightfully freaks the boy out into breaking it off between them, leading May to fall deeper into the void and, in an increasingly distressing run, tries to fill the chasm with as many friends and desperate good intentions she can get and give. After failing to bond a friendship with Polly (Anna Faris), her lesbian co-worker who's also intrigued by her odd personality, as well as with a group of blind kids at a volunteer work and even with a random stranger who's into jujube candies, May's psyche reaches its breaking point one day and, in a twisted epiphany, she will attempt to end her heartbreaks by taking her mother's words to heart: If you can't find a friend, make one.

And seeing I'm covering this movie here, scalpels will be involved.

Labeling Lucky McKee's May (2002) a slasher is only correct for the last act as everything else before that is a strong teen thriller with a taint of psychological horror and arthouse stylistics. As a character study, it fascinates us with the look into the inner workings of an uneasy yet eager damaged mind through the ups and downs of their present life, doing their best to make sense of the world outside their depressingly sheltered and lonesome upbringing, as well as what they perceive as "normal". This in turn may or may not elicit an action from our protagonist that equals to horrific (if not at least cringy), so as much as the film sprinkles in a healthy dose of black comedy to counter and balance the bleak, the horror aspect is ever present not only through its shocking imagery and gore (keep an eye on the glass shard scene. It's unnerving), but also through its many scenes of desperation, total breakdown and uncomfortably unsettling dialogue.

The key factor that makes this direction works is Angela Bettis' outstanding performance as the titular May, living the character up as both a victim of her own flaws and a freak through the eyes of those who choose to see her that way. As someone far from being completely understandable, but sympathetic enough at least fathom her reasonings for the horrible deeds she ends up doing a bit. She does this impressively without stepping into overacting and the same can be said to the two supporting roles by Jeremy Sisto (of Wrong Turn (2003)) and Anna Farris (who would later play the hapless Cindy Campbell from the first four Scary Movies) as May's selections of (doomed) love interests whose interactions with her all felt natural.

Fascinatingly enough, the bodycounting third act manages to keep its bloodshed on a semi-realistic light, racking up a modest kill count and with just enough blood spilled to keep a polite bloodhound at bay. It does have its gruesomely brutal moments, but these are strategically done within crucial developments of the story, henceforth they're hard to brush off and it sticks deep within one's memory once it comes out of the left field. Minor drawbacks to point out, though, includes the movie's pace trailing along May's development and psychological devolution as a character to a tee, so it does take a while to get going. There's also the very ambiguous final shot that's as creepy and odd as it is open for interpretation, something that might toy some viewers the wrong way, but I personally find this last minute shocker a bit of warm and satisfyingly bittersweet.

A strong recommendation for horror fans, May (2002) is one criminally underrated dark drama that taps into our emotions to make us squirm, showing us that some horror are born from the grueling thoughts of one's dearth. Psychological horror with last minute slasher antics done right, we strongly implore you not to miss out on this gem. 

1 male stabbed in the head with a pair of dressmaker shears
1 female had her neck cut with scalpels
1 female stabbed in the temples with scalpels
1 female stabbed in the neck with a scalpel
1 male stabbed in the gut with a scalpel
Total: 5

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