Lucky McKee’s ‘May’ (2002): A Creepy Character Study – Retro Review

Characters will always be the most fascinating things about movies. In spite of the fact that every aspect of filmmaking has to come together in a cacophony of timing and storytelling, we always find ourselves relating in some way to the more memorable characters. In May, the main character is a quirky balance of terrifying but empathetic due to her underdog status. As this underrated 2002 gem turns twenty years old this month, lets look at what makes it so intriguing.

May was written and directed by genre stalwart Lucky McKee (The Woman 2011), who is known for his dark humor and fast-paced writing style. He struck gold with this story about a loner girl who grew up as an outcast due to her physical appearance and awkward personality. Her sheltered life has lead her on a journey to find her perfect soulmate. But since her only friend is her childhood doll, she’s forced to build a friend from scratch (in the darkest way you might imagine). The titular character is played by Angela Bettis (Toolbox Murders 2004), who truly makes this dark character feel rooted in normalcy. But May isn’t the only character in May who has a flare for the macabre and offbeat. Jeremy Sisto (Frozen II 2019) plays Adam, May’s love interest, and Anna Faris (Scary Movie 2000 – read our retro review here) plays Polly, a sexually driven co-worker of the young woman. Both possess an energy and a humor that makes them simultaneously dangerous and mysterious to the viewer.

Premiering at Sundance on January 13, 2002, May covers a litany of different themes. From abuse to repression, we witness May’s well-paced backstory unfold as she stalks and covets individual parts from different people’s bodies. That leads to some really unique insert shots as May starts to collect her dream person, piece by piece. This movie, as well as many others in history, correlates the relationship between sexuality and horror. As May’s late-bloomer status sees her deal with rejection and experimentation, the gore begins to ratchet up in a symphonic way. It feels like Stephen King’s Carrie, where we can understand the methods behind the violence, but we’re left to ponder if the punishments fit the crimes.

As May completes her modern-day Doctor Frankenstein project, she realizes that she must sacrifice a part of herself to complete the perfect mate. This twisted metaphor for love leaves her flat-lined in bed with this crescendo corpse, achieving a happiness in death that she never did when she was alive. A piece of the creator always lives and dies along with their creation, but at what cost? May is a film that could serve as a masterclass in originality and character writing, and holds up just as well twenty years later.

About Jason Burke

Hey there, I'm Jason. I'm a lifelong writer and lover of all things that go bump in the night. Under my production company name, Nostalgic Nightmare Productions, I write and produce films, novels, and photoshoots. I'm also an actor, activist, poet, and stand-up comic. I believe in deep, character-driven stories that engage the audience.

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