Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Frankenstein Friday, where grave robbing is not just a hobby, it’s a calling. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they thread their needles in preparation for a different kind of cross-stitch project.
Today’s film offering: May
Andy: We watch a lot of out-there horror stuff here at Hallowfest. Last year and this year, we’ve seen a film where a man reconstructed his own face using wax, a documentary crew following around a slasher villain, and a found footage about some people going to actually find Frankenstein’s Monster.
Heck, my favourite film is Alien. So, when I say this, I say it with some authority. This film is weird.
The plot, such as it is, is about an extremely socially awkward woman’s attempts to connect with the people around her. She’s desperately lonely, but not wise in the ways of the world, so her attempts don’t necessarily go as well as she’d hoped.
Lilly: Life isn’t all bad for the lazy-eyed May, though! She has a best friend–said bff is a creepy doll in a glass box, but still! That’s nice. Right? Right?
May is one of those films that gives you awkward heebie jeebies before any actual horror happens. You watch as an incredibly awkward girl tries to make herself attractive for a boy, and just the opposite happens. As her outside becomes more beautiful, the inside becomes more…well.
Andy: It really makes you realise the banality of evil. It’s not caused by grandiosity, just by a slow, gentle slide away from anyone who could be able to reach you, talk to you or stop you.
Lilly: The character of May is one of the most well-realized awkward, weird girls I have ever seen on film. She is weird in a real way, not just in the ‘I love sparkles on my pancakes, listen to this song it will open your eyes to your soul, I collect buttons from old shirts’ kind of way you get in indie films often enough.
Andy: She’s like the antithesis of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Sometimes people who are shy and really kooky are not people you want to be around – they’re alone for a reason. Sometimes, they may even be dangerous.
Lilly: What’s great about the characterization of May is that she is set up in direct contrast to another character, Polly, who also has a physical deformity of sorts (a massive mole on her finger) so would have been teased in school as well, and you see that it isn’t the teasing that necessarily made May the monster she becomes, but rather something else.
Of course, you could argue Polly’s family told her differences like a mole on your hand made your special while May’s mother made a point of saying she wouldn’t make friends with her lazy eye, so perhaps that didn’t help, but once we see adult May speaking to her doll as if holding a conversation, you are relatively sure there is more at work than a bad childhood. May is insane, not quirky. She’s actually mentally unstable, and desperately needs help, but seems to have just slipped through life, hiding herself away. Until she meets Adam, anyway.
Something I also thought was well done was the first time her and Adam get intimate, mainly because it was the realest ‘virgin’ scene I’ve seen in a film, where she had literally no idea what to do beyond hugging and pawing at his fiercely, in that way kids pet animals before they are taught to ‘pet nicely’. That barring-teeth sort of hugging you see toddlers do to toys, where their love is almost aggressive. It was so….weird.
Andy: Part of what makes this film so disturbing is that we are used to seeing characters like this go through some sort of redemptive arc – Steve Carrell’s 40 Year Old Virgin sorts himself out with the perfect woman, endless teenage girls are made over and ‘improved’, so subconsciously you’re waiting for it here. You’re waiting for someone to rescue her. And no one does, so she rescues herself. Which is not exactly what the audience had in mind.
The first hour or so of this film could be seen as an offbeat romantic comedy but believe us when we say this is a true horror film – it actually horrifies. And there’s no sudden turning point, just a slow, shallow slide, and we’re suddenly at the bottom of a psychosis.
Lilly: Yeah, when I said she was ‘hiding herself’, it’s more like, as Andy says, a slow, steady slide that we witness. She actually doesn’t hold back much crazy. She openly compliments Polly’s neck or Adam’s hands, plays with a scalpel at work, and enjoys telling stories about dog guts. She only really holds back the big guns (her bff dolly friend), and even then, it’s almost as if that just doesn’t come up, not that she’s hiding it. She actually brings the doll out into the world, even, and shares her bond with it in one of the most disturbing scenes. And she doesn’t seem to see how it might be seen as odd.
There is also an odd sort of line in the film between what is real and what May is imagining (there is no distinction by how it is shot or presented, so it is hard to distinguish), so who knows if there is anything supernatural going on with that doll or not, but really, in the end, this is a story of a troubled young lady trying to make friends and deciding that, in order to get exactly what she wanted from another person, she’d have to go custom order. Which is an insane idea, which makes sense, since it is May’s idea.
Andy: It’s interesting, but also very, very odd. This is definitely one for the cult bin, and we definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone just getting into horror. It’s seriously one of the strangest ones we’ve ever reviewed.
Lilly: Yeah, we mainly reviewed it this year because I had seen it years ago and needed someone else to watch it so I could share in the awkward, strange taste it leaves in your mouth, to be honest.
It’s…a thing. It is weird, it is different, and it is…May.
Bonus: Adam is played by Jeremy Sisto. Remember him? Yeah. So there’s that!