Please welcome my friend, Dementia – The Conmother, back for a second year of Halloween Horrors.
Much like her piece last year on 1989’s lesser-known Corman-produced vampire flick, Dance of the Damned, this year’s submission flows very much in the same vein. (Pun totally intended.) Once again, Demmie peels back the curtains for a very personal piece, this time on the titular character from Lucky McKee’s May.
While all of the writers in this series use this platform to dissect their chosen topic, quite a few writers also dissect themselves. For this, I am honored.
It was 2004, the second year into my “October Horror Movie Challenge”, an annual challenge to myself to watch a new (to me) horror film every day of October and write a review. It was a great way to catch up on films “everyone” but me had watched, and also a great way to spend my already sleepless nights.
It was only a few days into October, and I was channel-surfing late night cable, as it had become quite the refuge for discovering sleepers. When I settled in to watch one, my attention was immediately captured by the quirky and eccentric feel within the first couple of minutes. Once the main character appeared, with an eyepatch and being mocked by kids on the first day of school, I was drawn to her instantly.
Flash back to 1974. An awkward 5-year-old Demmie in kindergarten, with an eye patch. Why? I had a lazy eye. Back then, the method the optometrists used to try to fix it was to patch the good eye to “force” the bad one to start working properly. Not only did it fail (resulting in me constantly walking into things), but it was one more thing for which kids would make fun of me. A few years later I would get glasses, but it still did not correct my lazy eye (which was only corrected by surgery far into my adulthood), so the mocking never did stop. I still recall the nicknames. Kids are really cruel creatures.
So, within the first ten minutes of May, I was convinced I was watching a variation of myself on the screen. It’s not very often that you come across a horror film with a female villain that is so identifiable. People often talk about the “geek” nowadays, the nerd. “May” is the embodiment of what many of us felt as kids (pre-internet). It’s even less often that you come across lead horror females, so May is a dark horse. As the film progresses, you not only understand her awkward nature and her odd behavior, but you begin to relate to May and her loneliness, and her deep longing for a friend, a pure motivation.
Angela Bettis has been in a number of horror films such as the remake of The Toolbox Murders, Bless the Child, and played the main role in Masters of Horrors series piece entitled “Sick Girl” (warning, do not watch if you’re not a fan of cockroaches), in which she was directed by Lucky McKee, who was the mastermind behind 2002’s May. May affected me so much that I costumed as her (but I’m not nearly waifish enough to pull her off properly) at a horror convention, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy pulling around the cooler of body parts and measuring people’s appendages. I wish I could have done her more justice. I was also lucky enough (pun intended) to meet and talk with the director, Lucky McKee, by surprise at Texas Frightmare a few years ago, and got some fantastic insight into the film.
How many of us have been taken in by someone who has shown interest, only to have them flinch when you reveal a piece of the “real you”? May’s plight is one with which a number of us “weirdos” can sympathize. May was a lonely girl, but was quite content to stay in the awkward shadows. It was characters like Adam and Polly who encouraged May to come out, to express her strangeness. And when she even showed a sliver? They recoiled, although not maliciously, thus (inadvertently) rejecting May for who she was. Who of us could not relate? It’s in this very capacity that May shines as a paragon of what many of female horror fans experience.
Horror fandom is mostly populated by men, and to be an “outsider” in an already eyebrow-arching genre corner is to understand what it is to be abnormal. Women are supposed to enjoy rom-coms. Marley and Me. Giggling over margaritas and girly things. To enjoy horror as a woman is still very much looked upon as “strange” and full of preconceived notions. May represents that perspective, and how many of us are still seen. As much as people say they like weird, when they get to know a real female horror fan, it’s very often that we get the message of “Uh… maybe not that weird.”
One of the philosophies that May follows is that while people as a whole are not perfect, they each possess a beautiful “part”. Much like her eye was a defective “part”, she thusly learns to see people for their “parts”. So, it is no wonder, and can be construed as reasonable, in my opinion, that she begins to see that if she can’t have a friend who accepts her as she is, it only makes sense that she combine “parts” to make the perfect friend. We’ve all daydreamed about the different parts of various people, that if we combined them, we’d have the “perfect person”. So, we can live vicariously through May when she is rejected for the final time, and just snaps. Those of us who have been bullied and rejected comprehend May’s spiraling descent, and morbidly find a bit of a champion when she goes on the Halloween rampage we’ve fantasized about.
It’s obvious that May affected me due to the obviousness of our shared disability, along with our shared past childhood traits. However, while she’s technically the villain in this tale, the underdog in all of us finds a tragic, yet relatable, and unorthodox hero in this modern Frankenstein story.