May (2002) was preceded by the extremely bloody body horror and slasher film, Evil Dead (2013), which makes it seem like a pretty tame horror movie. Nevertheless, it should not be underestimated because as a horror film, it gives us another perspective on the ‘monster,’ and it was able to deliver well.
The horror film May (2002), gives the audience a rather startling start by showing the clip of May crying out blood because she poked out her eyeballs. May actually suffers from an eye ailment, which is why she had to wear an eye patch to school. But from then on, she found it difficult to make friends. She then lives by her mother’s wise words, “If you can’t find a friend, you make one.”
May’s best friend is a porcelain doll. The first few frames that included the doll was quite misleading because it made the doll look like the main monster. Interestingly, the porcelain doll was the thing that was keeping May together because she was all alone in life and she did not have any real friends. She was overly protective of the doll and took a great risk when she brought it to the day care center. She completely lost it when it was broken by the children.
Furthermore, May also has an affinity for sewing things. She likes to make her own clothes. She also works in an animal shop, wherein she helps with the surgical operations of animals. Here, the audience can already see her developing the skills that she need so she can make her own ‘friend.’
Other characters also affected May’s emotional and mental well-being. May came across her first “crush” near an auto repair shop, in which she lovingly stares at his hands while he works. The two of them become physically involved, until the guy realizes May’s certain ‘weirdness and quirks.’ May was devastated, but she realizes that her co-worker in the animal shop is sexually attracted to her, and she explores this side of her sexuality. However, both of these relationships fail and leave May even more broken and alone. It did not help that these “lovers” moved on from her so quickly. Friendless May moves in silent reverie, ends up killing her cat, and states (non-verbatim) that, “there are so many pretty parts, but not a pretty whole.”
What makes May a well-made horror film is the hundreds of innuendos pertaining to May’s crazy personality, despite a bit of a slow start. Her personality was, well, horrifying. However, her background and the context that she came from can help us better understand her reasons why she ended up being a killer.
May is also a horror film which tackles the issues of gender and homosexuality. According to an article by Benshoff (2002), “The monster and the homosexual,” “monster is to ‘normality’ as homosexual is to heterosexual” (p. 91). May is not just shut off by the world because of her eye ailment. She was also exploring and coming to terms with her sexuality. Homosexuals are seen by society as “intrinsically monstrous”, even before the rise of AIDS. Hence, the monster can be seen as a metaphor for the homosexual. Unpacking this further, the homosexual, as the monster, is also a necessary ‘other.’ “Without gays, straights are not straight” (Benshoff, 2002, p. 96). May won’t be necessarily seen as ‘weird’ or ‘queer’ without the contrast of the normal characters in the film, or if she does what we perceive to be normal in real life.
Furthermore, May is a horror film which features its very own Frankenstein—May’s best friend—at the end of the movie. The monster was made up of parts from May’s friends that she found pretty—from Polly’s legs to Adam’s hands. With the creation of May’s very own Frankenstein, she showcases her desire for the “possibility of immortality and power” (O’Flinn, 2002, p. 107). Immortality and power in the sense that she will have a ‘permanent’ friend, one who isn’t fickle and won’t leave her for other people. She can also very well control the actions of her very own Frankenstein.
O’Flinn (2002) likewise notes that “the monster’s eventual life of violence and revenge is the direct product of his social circumstances” (p. 110). It was easy to feel sympathetic towards the character of May even though she ended up being a killer. Her actions were a result of the unpleasant circumstance in which she grew up in. May, as a horror film, is also telling of the way society treats people who have an affinity for ‘weird things’ and those who are leaning more towards the ‘queer’ side of sexuality.
Source: Janovich, M. (2002). Horror, The Film Reader. London: Routledge.