Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Writer-director Lucky McKee’s sole mistake in 2002’s May happened early — opening on a bloodcurdling shriek and a flash of stomach-turning eye gore. This flash-forward tipped off where McKee’s otherwise modulated macabre was headed.
Fortunately, McKee stashed away enough subtext to distinguish this punkish piece of pulp horror.
Resembling Anne Hathaway by way of Edward Gorey’s drawings, Angela Bettis is the mousy May. She hungers for human intimacy, and Suzie, her still-encased childhood doll, is her only “friend.” Fledgling filmmaker Adam (Jeremy Sisto) senses an oddball kindred spirit in May, but she misinterprets his ghoulish fiction as the real romantic gesture he wants, which scares him away and drives her to madness.
May takes a cracked view of 1 Corinthians’ idea of leaving childish things behind — blending the brooding of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the bleak, acrid tone of Alkaline Trio lyrics and the most frightening sing-song horror-film score since Goblin’s nightmarish prog-rock whispers in 1977’s Suspiria.
Meanwhile, McKee cleverly conceals feminism under May’s crimson cloak of crazy: Dolls such as Suzie promote sex and social status as a measure of a woman’s worth, but break their delicate seal and they’re somehow tarnished.
Whip-smart and bugnuts, May delivers grisly goods, too, with a terrifying mishap at a kids’ rec room and a scene of blood caked so thick and far up May’s arms that it resembles evening gloves.
There’s nothing silly in May’s chilling final image. Like The Descent, it’s the ultimate abandonment of tough reality for the simple solace of madness.