Lucky McKee’s ‘MAY’ (2002) – An Ageless Character Study – Retro Review

Simply put, character studies make some of the most intriguing films ever created. From Hitchcock’s genre-defining Psycho (1960) to the more recent masterclass Pearl (2022, read our review here), horror has allowed us to follow some of the most heartbroken and homicidal figures in history. May (2003) is no exception. It will possibly go down in history as one of the standout gems of the subgenre. To make sure this alluring trip through the macabre doesn’t get forgotten, let’s take a look at what’s made May so important on its 20th anniversary.

An Unforgettable Character

May was written and directed by genre legend Lucky McKee (All Cheerleaders Die 2013). His dark combination of awkward comedy and realism is plastered all throughout this film. It made its official U.S. debut in February 2003. However, it didn’t seem to find a sustainable audience until long after its release. The movie stars Angela Bettis (12 Hour Shift 2020), Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn 2003), and Anna Faris (Scary Movie 2000). Bettis plays the titular character of May. This is a girl who’s been bullied for physical affectation and grows into a fascination with body parts. All three of the main triumvirate of actors do a remarkable job playing socially awkward, counter-culture characters that fuel each other in a way that’s both sexual and antagonistic.

McKee and the actors in May take shots and scenes that would normally seem very uneventful and routine and keep your eyes glued to the screen because everyone feels realistic and believable. We often watch the character of May looking for love or transfixed on a particular body part of someone that she finds cloying. Even as more of May’s backstory unravels and we learn of her unhealthy connection to her special doll, we still find a way to empathize with her. She’s an underdog who’s undergone a lot of tragedy, and who simply appreciates the beauty she’s never had. She’s desperate for the love and connections we all seek, in her own awkward way. The same can be said for the other main characters. They also stumble through relationships, trying to find someone who accepts them for their own offbeat selves.

May (2002)

May – Final Thoughts

There are so many themes in May that make it more able to ruminate on than your standard “ugly duckling gets revenge” slasher. The thirst for beauty. The troubled upbringing. Sexual energy. The lost artist. And the need for human contact all rear their heads in this darkly lovable cast of misfits. The backgrounds are beautiful, the pacing is wonderful, and the gore in the final act feels well-earned. Anyone who has a morbid curiosity about Norman Bates or the true crime serial killer contingent should also find room for May Dove Canady, one of the most fascinating characters in horror history.

What are your thoughts on this film? Tell us in the comments!

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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