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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.93%
Average: 11.97%
Pretty Bad: 1.71%
Total Crap: 3.42%

7 reviews, 75 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"One For The Books And The DVD Library"
5 stars

You ever notice how there never seems to be any good, solid in-between horror films? The best ones are either universally accepted and become big, well-deserved box office hits or they sink into obscurity only to become cult hits much later on video and at scattered midnight shows. In-between you get films like Wrong Turn, House of 1000 Corpses and Ghost Ship. It's an absolute crime that Lucky McKee's May will never have the chance to make any serious theatrical dough. It took over a year after its premiere at Sundance for it to get bought up and unspooled into two U.S. cities: Fresno and Austin. Then after it already locked up a date for its DVD release, it has somehow found a last-minute half-life into a few more cities including Chicago where the discussion I heard in the screening room amongst a respected group of name critics would have made Lions Gate blush.

I didn't see the film with my Chicago brethren. It was at the 2003 South by Southwest Film Festival. It wasn't an entry in the fest, but the fest was in Austin. On what was thought to be the last screening of the last day of its U.S. theatrical release, myself and two colleagues had the perfect experience. There was no crowd. Just the three of us alone to view this little film, free to mock it at will if the mood captured us or to voice our enthusiasm for what was on the screen at a moment's notice. The surroundings and company had nothing to do with the perfect experience. It was when May began.

In a modern twist on the story of Stephen King's Carrie, May Canady (Angela Bettis, who played Carrie in the TV remake) has always been on the outside looking in (and sideways) thanks to her lazy eye. When she was young, her overly disparaging mommy gave her a very special doll to be her companion (one that looks like the female version of "Puppet Master'"s Blade.) Now on her own, May is still the shy one working as a veterinarian's assistant and ignoring the flirtation of her polar opposite co-worker, Polly (Anna Faris). But, May's got her eye on the good-looking loner she sees on her lunchbreaks, Adam Stubbs (Jeremy Sisto, giving his best performance outside of TV's Six Feet Under), and she'll do anything to get his attention.

May is hardly the social debutante and it takes Adam a moment to come around, but the start of their relationship is rooted not in the dirt of movie laws but a reality to how two people can find a mutual appreciation of each other. They both love horror films, with part-time filmmaker Adam giving May one-too-many ideas on how to please her man. But as their relationship grows, will May be able to handle polar Polly? And is her precious doll taking on a Christine-complex of jealousy?

By the time you even begin to fathom such questions, May has you entranced in a humorous, slighty freaky affair that has no qualms on raising the stakes after establishing a character we care about deeply. Knowledgable moviegoers will be able to detect the main route that the film travels down, but writer/director Lucky McKee (and I wanted to mention his name again, this being his debut feature) still has enough twists of the page to mislead you from one dark territory into someplace far more sinister.

I was critical at first (my only real criticism) of a flash-forward that opens the film; a technique I've never been in favor of since it's usually a reveal that could spoil further surprises and cast a cloud of short-term memory over our viewing until we catch up to it. After later seeing a similar-themed film at the Tribeca Film Festival called Love Object, I labeled it as "May done wrong" for several reasons including an ugly third act that didn't seem to fit with everything that came before it. McKee uses those opening frames to establish a warning of impending unpleasantness and it not only prepares us but casts a further wave of sympathy over the character we don't want to see harmed emotionally or physically. Although I still think he could have gotten away with just using a scream.

Angela Bettis gives a stand-alone performance in a genre that usually depends on body dimensions and vocal emissions. Her sympathetic portrayal is noteworthy in the way she walks the line between recluse and dementia, yet we are always aware of what's going on in her head in good times and bad. And when she screams, it's terrifying and heartbreaking. It's a beautiful performance. Anna Faris, whose claim-to-fame so far has been the Scary Movie series and a brief ray-of-light in Rob Schneider's stinkfest, The Hot Chick, goes all out to deliver one of the most furtively sexy performances I've seen in years. She presents both a confidence in her sexuality and a naivete when new experiences get her right where it counts. The word "sexy" is used all too often to describe films. If you doubt me, the adjective has already been attached to 2003 releases The Recruit, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Deliver Us from Eva, Better Luck Tomorrow, Confidence and The Italian Job. Yes, The Italian Job. May is the first film in a long time to proudly wear that moniker and make us feel it.

I've had few genuinely original pleasures in theaters this year outside of the film festival circuit. One of them was seeing May and another was standing in that screening room listening to how that film affected other colleagues of mine. Discussing one brilliant moment only to be reminded of another that made us all cringe or laugh or rave. It may not have connected with a teenage mall crowd expective of rollercoaster thrills, but ask anyone what the scariest part of those amusement park attractions are. It's not the hill. It's the slow crawl up to it. I have every confidence that this is going to find a long cult life on DVD and be mentioned in the future alongside horror classics like Dead Alive and The Evil Dead series. At the very least, if it never has the chance to make the big bucks, it can wallow in greatness forever.

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originally posted: 06/06/03 15:25:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/10/11 matthew thompson dalldorf One of the best movies I have ever seen! 5 stars
8/18/09 Tony So. incredibly. good. creepiest movie ive seen in a while. 5 stars
3/16/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess uite possibly 5 stars
2/02/09 Lee "Actually, I kinda liked it, Do me again" 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
5/19/08 BJ Love this unique movie. Had to own it. 5 stars
5/19/08 Ambrosia Angela Bettis, te amo!!! Come here! 5 stars
5/11/08 mr.mike Effective , however I thought "Romeo" was better 4 stars
6/21/07 Spook one of the best independent films ever! 5 stars
5/24/07 Ted R Brilliant....twisted.....haunting 5 stars
5/09/07 Andy B who would not like this movie? 5 stars
5/05/07 gen sad and intriguing. the character study on this is really good 5 stars
4/18/07 Kyle_S i just saw this movie, and it was really a good way 5 stars
4/12/07 sara it was funny and tragic and the actors were great 5 stars
3/27/07 fools♫goldÖ Scared if being scared 5 stars
3/18/07 Siren angela bettis is great in this movie! 5 stars
3/07/07 Succubus_Incubus The best movie ever made! Yeah. 5 stars
12/15/06 T. McGregor A quirky, character driven horror movie with a nasty, sad ending. Long live May! 5 stars
11/15/06 Morbidica A great horror story, with a tragic end and lusty twists 5 stars
11/13/06 Dark Enchantress Beautifully grotesque! 5 stars
11/09/06 Jason great director, great plot, totally unique! 5 stars
11/09/06 DarkEnchantress My fav. i love them! 5 stars
10/22/06 AJ Muller Angela Bettis is something special; so is the flick-sad/funny/creepy, an eye-opening winner 5 stars
10/10/06 Pritchett Complete garbage. I question the sanity of those who call it a masterpiece. Please... 1 stars
7/02/06 Jambi Truly one of the stupidest and most pointless movies I've ever seen. A total eye-roller. 1 stars
5/18/06 Cherita Black It is a masterpiece!!!! I've been wainting for something like it forever! It's my favorite. 5 stars
8/17/05 bujene everyone should watch it carefully there are important messages 4 stars
12/04/04 K. Sear A brave attempt but it fell short. Not terrible but could be beter. 3 stars
11/15/04 psycho black dwarf where others settle for Photoshop-doctored pictures, May needs the real thing. 4 stars
11/08/04 jack an unrealistic film with a good ending 3 stars
10/25/04 Me A great film 5 stars
8/28/04 whatevr pygmolean meets frankenstein 4 stars
7/25/04 Find The Keys For a horror flick, this is quite good (I must admit)...for a horror flick (that is). 3 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva odd 3 stars
5/14/04 mark louis baumgart The last third is pretty good, but, man, it takes frigging FOREVER to get there. 3 stars
5/03/04 Me A great film 5 stars
4/26/04 Denise Duspiva Avante Garde 4 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt MAY is A-MAY-ZING! Smart, touching, and wonderfully weird! Bettis & Faris are GREAT! 5 stars
3/29/04 Kristen Ankiewicz Unbelievably great performances 5 stars
3/20/04 true review weird in a cool way, good lead performance, tongue in cheek gore, Amelie if she were insane 4 stars
12/10/03 re A GREAT FILM 5 stars
12/02/03 malcolm hard for me to recommend but i couldnt turn away.if u liked 'may' see polanski's 'repulsion 3 stars
11/27/03 he A GREAT FILM 5 stars
10/20/03 Jim Sad tale of lonely misfit. Had no idea Anna Faris was that hot, either. 5 stars
10/18/03 Jon An instant cult classic. Not for all tastes, but those who'll love it will REALLY love it! 5 stars
10/10/03 Erik Van Sant Disturbing and disgustingly hilarious. McKee...welcome to the genre. 5 stars
10/06/03 sneaker Whoever directed this should go back to shooting commercials. Please. 2 stars
10/01/03 Redpajammas a great film 5 stars
9/23/03 Alice It was not all that to me, expected more 3 stars
9/15/03 Alton Robertson Worth seeing for the ending alone. Superb creepy salted with black comedy. 4 stars
8/31/03 Connie Theil A poignant, touching tale of about the loneliness and madness of a young girl. 5 stars
8/29/03 Albie Great strange erotic scene with Bettis and Faris 4 stars
8/23/03 nr great 5 stars
8/01/03 grimthall the black this movie sucks 2 stars
7/16/03 Mike May is an extremely disturbing movie in all the right ways. A true thriller. A great movie. 5 stars
7/16/03 Kyle Incredible. Damn, I wish I saw this in theaters. Lucky McKee is destined for great things. 5 stars
7/15/03 Ellen Willis Is a perfect film from the unhappy girls than became to found a love finally. 5 stars
6/30/03 Jay didnt like 1 stars
6/29/03 Chicago Wolf The Best Movie of the Year. Bettis is great and Anna Faris is unbelievable. 5 stars
6/10/03 george schmidt A truly creepy/funny horror flick a la "Carrie" and then some 5 stars
6/09/03 Caiphn Angelis Bettis is a great actress. Creepy flick! 4 stars
5/30/03 Jon Leroux Wow. I'm not sure whether I should cry like crazy or scream in absolute horror. 5 stars
2/22/03 Lynz incredibly funny, i couldn't stop giggling, good girl/girl action 3 stars
2/22/03 Darren Shea Creepy, creepy film. Angela Bettis is phenomenal. 5 stars
2/16/03 bob twisted, indeed 5 stars
12/07/02 BAM great 5 stars
11/13/02 Andrew Carden It's Creepy How Perfect This Film Is. Just Plain Old Fun. 5 stars
7/12/02 Chris My new favorite flick 5 stars
7/09/02 cerise A truly unforgettable movie watching must see it for yourself to appreciate 5 stars
7/02/02 Burn Matthews great movie..fucking awsome..greatest lines ive heard in a while.. 5 stars
5/28/02 neonjazz I like it very much! Creepy yet absolutely enjoyable! 5 stars
5/11/02 Andrew Duncan gREAT! Fun, gruesome and sort of touching. Great Music, too! 5 stars
4/30/02 JBrown Beautifully Twisted!!! 5 stars
4/21/02 Kevin May is a cleverly written, touching story that will fill you with laughs and gasps. 4 stars
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  06-Jun-2003 (R)
  DVD: 17-Aug-2004



Directed by
  Lucky McKee

Written by
  Lucky McKee

  Angela Bettis
  Jeremy Sisto
  Anna Faris
  Merle Kennedy
  Will Estes
  Mike McKee

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