Opens Fri June 27
Since their heyday in the mid-'80s, great horror flicks have been a dying genre, collapsing under the empty-calorie weight of reality-, meta- and supernatural-variety winky slasher films. Luckily, someone out there sought to combat this unfortunate turn: Lucky McKee, the writer/director of a wonderful black comedy called May. "In the last 10 years, horror movies have become so self-reflexive," he laments. "How can you be scared for people who know they're in a horror film? Horror movies are art and can be beautiful. And there's no moralization. You can go all the way."
In a summer rife with new horror films, McKee goes for third base, at least, with May. It isn't exclusively horrific; it's also a touching paean to alienation, a bit of good old-fashioned gore, and a mine of tongue-in-cheek (but not cynical) humor. Angela Bettis stars as the title character; her lazy eye and perfectionist mother have led her on the path to lifelong alienation. May's only friend is a creepy porcelain doll encased in glass--until she falls for hotsy-totsy Jeremy Sisto. He's a mechanic with perfect hands and an affinity for Troma; he can relate to her weirdo tendencies. But when he dumps her, May's tendencies drift from cursory freakishness into the realm of armchair Frankenstein.
"May is layered with fairy tales, and there's a lot of myself in that character," says McKee. "I even have a lazy eye; I had to wear a patch in kindergarten. It's total social ineptness. There's a lot of Taxi Driver there, too. A lot of people don't see that, but it's pretty blatant. Taxi Driver was the best film about loneliness. Dario Argento, pre-Raphaelite oil paintings, John Waterhouse; I tried to put all those things in May."
In perfect tandem with the best b-grade horror films, there's a fun, youthful vigor about May that could only leave curmudgeons wanting for more. It's got the same humor as Heathers and the same emotional surrealism as Trust, and there are entire scenes that seem crafted exclusively for the purpose of watching hot Jeremy Bettis hotly smoking a hot cigarette to a Breeders song (e.g. generation-specific softcore porn). Most importantly, every character is sympathetic, especially May. When she times her lunch breaks to "accidentally" run into her crush, it is heartbreakingly sweet--and by the time she freaks out, executing some dastardly deeds on the same crush, your empathy is well-seated.