" If you're big on the Frankenstein canon try renting some of the entries in the Hammer Studios Frankenstein cycle. Or Frankenhooker even. Anything but this. "
Title: May by Lions Gate Pictures
Reviewing Monkey: EEGAH!
The Hype: Just hitting the home video market off a fairly successful festival run is this year's must-see scare flick for the true horror connoisseur and a new twist on the Frankenstein cycle.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Acting: May Kennedy
(Angela Bettis) is an odd duck. Born with a wandering eye, her mother (who's
a slightly less high strung version of Sissy Spacek's mother in Carrie) girds
her against the cruelty of her classmates by making her wear an eye patch (yeah,
that makes perfect sense). Anyway, to go along with the insanity complex, Mommy
Kennedy also gives her a spooky little doll which she won't allow May to take
out of its case.
Jumping ahead several years later, May has had her vision problems corrected but is still no less awkward as evidenced by the fact that her best friend is that damn doll, which she respectfully keeps in its little glass sarcophagus. The depth of May's social ineptitude is revealed through several uncomfortable sequences. Her failed attempts at forging relationships with people take their toll on May's fractured psyche (which finds its metaphorical expression in the doll's perpetually splintering glass case). It seems that the more attention she is paid, the weirder May gets. Finally, May arrives at the inevitable conclusion that all crazy people eventually do, "I should start killing people".
Sounds promising, right? Let me tell you why it's not. First the obvious: The Frankenstein references don't even come into play until the movie is almost over, leaving the majority of the film to set up endless character development so that we can better understand May's actions in the end. The problem is that it shouldn't take ninety-four interminably exhausting pages to set it up when the premise so straightforward. A great deal more time could have been spent on developing a bit more suspense in this department since we already knew what was going to happen right from the start. But instead, Lucky McKee dangles it in front of us like a carrot for so long that when the end does finally come around it seems hollow and flat. And to make matters worse, the scene depicting May's brutality is tempered by a touchy-feely Edward Scissorhands-esque ending just minutes later. The feeling this leaves one with is akin to getting into some heavy petting with a girl you just met and then walking in on her going to the bathroom…standing up!
Another problem I had, which may or may not be exclusive to me, was that each time May ostracized one of her acquaintances we were supposed to sympathize with her. Yet each time her social faux pas would increase in severity so that I couldn't fault their reaction towards her. Then again, I come from the school of thought which says if you can't function normally in society then put Meals on Wheels on speed dial and never set foot outside again.
The cast in this morass of boredom, at least, hack it out pretty well. Angela Bettis and Jeremy Sisto come off the best as May and her paramour Adam, respectively. You may remember Bettis recently playing yet another tormented character, that of Carrie for the made-for-television remake. Her enthusiasm for such roles may wind up pigeonholing her. Closing out the principal cast is Anna Farris as an irksome switch-hitting little twink of a receptionist who has her ill intentioned sights set on clearing the cobwebs out of May's rafters. For the most part, however, the rest of the cast are merely relegated to flitting about the periphery of May's psychoses. 2 out of 5
Visuals and Directing: If you're a diehard horror fan then you'll understand what I mean when I say that Lucky McKee is truly an adherent of the Jess Franco school of horror. We all know what the story is because the logline right on the front of the box tells us, but yet the lion's share of its running time is devoted to meticulously intricate exposition, which builds to the previously expected climax. The fact that the climax is every bit as grisly and brutal as we've expected comes too little too late. And what's more, several minutes later McKee blunts the impact with a conscientiously oblique resolution. I can see where you might be able to get away with being so heavy-handed with your audience in, say, a costume drama or something of the like and pass it off as subtle intrigue, but tedium in a genre geared strictly for entertainment purposes, as horror unquestionably is, is an unpardonable sin. And for that Lucky McKee is public enemy number one. 2 out of 5
DVD Extras: May cuts a paltry disc. Optional Spanish subtitles, a couple of trailers, and two commentary tracks, one of which (no joking) features the craft service guy! ˝ out of 5
Value vs. Price: In the mid-twenty range it's a steal. That is, the act of Lion's Gate stealing from you. ˝ out of 5
|May is akin to Chinese water torture. The performances are mostly salvageable, but the plot moves at such a painstakingly slow pace that you could grow an entire colony of Sea Monkeys and usher them into the Bronze Age before May arrives at her point. Ultimately, though May might not be more dull than the sum of her parts, it is not for lack of trying.|
The Good: As mentioned before, the acting
is fine. Angela Bettis does a fine job of eschewing what could have been a pretty
one dimensional character. You even get the sense that for all May's meekness
there's a very real undercurrent of menace. Nicely done on her part.
Jeremy Sisto (who's a dead ringer for Jim Morrison) plays yet another sullen, brooding character, and he plays the hell out of it. Problem is, he's played far more interesting sullen, brooding characters in far more intriguing movies.
And rounding things out, Anna Farris proves that she does possess at least some depth as she gives one of the sexiest performances I've seen in a great while, while the sinfully hot Nichole Hiltz (The Shield) appears in an all to brief cameo as a lesbian hooker.
The Bad: The characters are boring, the story is positively coma inducing and haughty air is infuriating. There's a sequel in the works with virtually the same story but from a male perspective. Creative.
The Overall Ugly: So this is the film that sparked such a massive bidding war? Apparently they were just going on word of mouth.
What it's Worth: If you're big on the Frankenstein canon try renting some of the entries in the Hammer Studios Frankenstein cycle. Or Frankenhooker even. Anything but this.