May. Lions Gate Films presents a film written and directed by Lucky McKee. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated R (for strong violence/gore, some sexuality and language). Starring Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, Anna Faris, James Duval.


Warning: The following review reveals several important plot points. While I have taken care not to reveal anything that could hurt the experience, those wishing to see May with no previous knowledge may want to skip this review.

Every year, there are one or two films released that display a new film-maker as a major talent. In 2003, we already have two such films. The first, Laetitia Colombani's He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, is one of the best movies released yet this year. May is the second. And, while it is not quite at the level of He Loves Me..., it is still a great movie, and a film no horror fan should miss.

Even for a veteran director, May would be an impressive accomplishment. But Lucky McKee wrote the first draft of the script while in school, so May might well be a student film, and it is all the more extraordinary for it. For a director that has never worked before, he manages to pull wonderful performances from all of his actors, and creates a bleak and unsettling atmoshphere.

May Canady (Angela Bettis) is a social outcast - her "lazy eye" alienated her from other children during school, and she has never recovered - who works at a local veterenary office. She lives at home with nothing but a doll in a glass case named Suzie. May's mother gave to doll to her for a birthday present. May talks to the doll, and the doll talks back - at least in May's head; it is her only true friend.

But then she sees Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a horror movie fan. May is instantly attracted to him, especially his hands. She finally gets up the nerve to approach him, and they begin going out. Adam doesn't mind May's strangeness - "I like weird," he says. "I like weird a lot." Little does he know just how weird May actually is; Adam's idea of weird is to watch a revival of a Dario Argento horror film, May's is an attempt to reenact Adam's student film - in which the happy kissing of two lovers turns into an act of ritual cannibalism.

After the scared Adam dumps May, she starts a brief relationship with Polly (Anna Faris), a free-spirited and sultry employee at the vet's office. But when Polly casually proves that she does not plan to be monogamous, May takes the final step over the edge. At the beginning of the film, May observes that too many people have wonderful parts, but no one has a perfect whole. Now she sets out to make that whole - using the perfect parts of people she knows.

The first hour of May is without any sort of graphic horror, and this is what makes the movie such a great achievement. By focusing the majority of the running length on the characters, we start to feel for all of them - even May. So once May does start her slaughter - one of the most horrifically disturbing sequences in recent years - we feel sorry for her, even though her acts are awful and unforgiveable.

The best horror films all have one thing in common - they never exploit their monsters. Too many horror movies show the monsters using their actions for their own enjoyment - only the good ones show the monster as a tragic creature, driven to their crimes by the actions of others. May can best be compared to Frankenstein, with May taking turns as both the Monster and Doctor Frankenstein.

But for all of the good material, May would never work without great performances from its leads. As May, Angela Bettis is pitch perfect, capturing every facet of her character's troubled personality. Both Jeremy Sisto and Anna Faris are also excellent. Sisto plays Adam with a gait that displays a condfidence that he doesn't know he has, and Faris proves that she is a much more capable actress than previously displayed.

May is one of the goriest and most disturbing movies I've seen in some time. It's not disturbing in the same way as, say, Requiem for a Dream is, but for pure blood and guts, nothing recent comes close to the pure horrific imagery present in May. It is certainly not a movie for some people - perhaps not for most people - but if you are a fan of the genre you owe it to yourself to seek May out.

© 2003 Matt Noller