Day 6: May

May (2002)

Who wants a little romance? How about the tale of a wallflower, the blossom of new love, the efficient use of veterinary surgical equipment, and a good sized freezer?

Few horror films are as touching, funny, heartbreaking, or bloody as May.

Lucky McKee’s 2002 breakout is a showcase for his own talent as both writer and director, as well as his gift for casting. The entire ensemble surprises with individualized, fully realized, flawed but lovable characters, and McKee’s pacing allows each of his talented performers the room to breathe, grow, get to know each other, and develop a rapport.

More than anything, though, May is a gift from Angela Bettis to you.

As the title character, Bettis inhabits this painfully gawky, socially awkward wallflower with utter perfection. McKee’s screenplay is as darkly funny as it is genuinely touching, and we’re given the opportunity to care about the characters: fragile May, laid back love interest Adam (a faultless Jeremy Sisto), hot and horny Polly (a wonderful Anna Faris).

Plus there’s a creepy doll! Hooray!

By day Polly flirts with a confused but needy May during their workday as veterinary assistants, and by night May pines for her tragically hip and beloved Adam. There’s nary a false note here, and those expecting a makeover that will turn May into the blooming rose we always knew she could be have tuned into the wrong film.

May’s vulnerability is painful yet beautiful to watch, and it’s impossible not to hope that cool outsider Adam is telling the truth when he reassures her, “I like weird.”

He’s not a liar, really. It’s just that he couldn’t possibly know how weird things would get.

Adam’s epiphany about May is not just the turning point in the film, but one of the most honestly heartbreaking moments in horror cinema.

McKee’s film pulls no punches, mining awkward moments until they’re almost unendurable and spilling plenty of blood when the time is right. He deftly leads us from the sunny “anything could happen” first act through a darker, edgier coming of age middle, and finally to a carnage laden climax that feels sad, satisfying, and somehow inevitable.

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