If “Nina Forever” is, at least in part, about the dangers of wanting to be “dark” (as I argue in my review), then “May” (2002) addresses the downside of being “weird.” Writer-director Lucky McKee‘s second feature film (which premiered at the 2002 Sundance festival) presents a main character, May (Angela Bettis), whose weirdness morphs under social pressures into certifiable psychotic insanity. In her world, there is also a collection of posers who affect weirdness — including an indie filmmaker, Adam [Jeremy Sisto]) — but once they taste the real thing at May’s hands, they realize (only too late) that true freakishness is much more outré than they had imagined.
“May” tells a slow-burn story, but psychological horror is best with a measured buildup. The brief first act deals with May’s difficult childhood, which is marred by others’ reactions to her “lazy eye” (known medically as “amblyopia”). With no childhood friends, she’s left on her own to fend for herself. At a lonely birthday party, her mother (Merle Kennedy) gives her Suzie, a creepy doll in a glass case, along with the admonition, “If you can’t find a friend, make one.” Ultimately, May takes this advice to heart in a quite literal way.
The remainder of the film shows May as a young adult. Awkward and anxious, she’s dying to make friends. Coincidental to her job as a veterinary tech, she meets Adam, a filmmaker and college dropout turned auto mechanic. As a horror aficionado, Adam likes weirdness, but only in the controlled sense of a fictional plot. May’s true and spontaneous strangeness ultimately turns him off. Adam’s rejection of May is where her psychosis begins.
Fresh from Adam’s rejection, she turns to her co-worker Polly (Anna Faris), who has been hitting on her. Polly’s polyamory leads to yet another rejection. The third strike comes from Blank (James Duval), a punker who rejects May after picking her up at a bus stop. At this point, something in May snaps, as humiliation and rage sweep away the last vestiges of her former naivete — and of her sanity. Her strangeness goes from passive to active as she stops caring what other people think of her. She’s about to show them how terrifying true weirdness can be.
Dark comedy lifts this ultimately gruesome film out of the depths until its all-too-serious ending. As Roger Ebert points out, the finale would be laughable in any other horror film. In this one, “[t]he title performance by Angela Bettis is crucial to the film’s success. She plays a twisted character who might easily go over the top into parody, and makes her believable, sympathetic and terrifying.” As a result, we believe what happens to her and to those that she tries to befriend in the short time we have to spend with her.
FRISCO KID’S RATING ON IMDb: 8 OUT OF 10 STARS
“Terror Tuesday” is the third new themed-post day for Loud Green Bird. In the future, expect the Bird to serve up a plate of horror every Tuesday.