A tongue-in-cheek horror movie that sponges up the influences of everything from "Repulsion" to "Frankenstein" to Dario Argento gorefests, debuting writer-director Lucky McKee's "May" concerns a disturbed young outsider who fails miserably at dating so turns instead to mutilating.

A tongue-in-cheek horror movie that sponges up the influences of everything from “Repulsion” to “Frankenstein” to Dario Argento gorefests, debuting writer-director Lucky McKee’s “May” concerns a disturbed young outsider who fails miserably at dating so turns instead to mutilating. More successful when the title character finally embarks on her bloody mission than in the dawdling buildup, this Lions Gate Sundance acquisition may strike a modicum of theatrical business as a campy latenight attraction but looks more likely to drum up an audience on video.

Having been ostracized as a child due to an eye-patch she was forced to wear before corrective surgery, intensely nerdy May (Angela Bettis) is unable to form close friendships. But her mother gives her a ghoulish homemade doll, saying, “If you can’t find a friend, make one,” and the advice stays with her into adulthood.

She appears to have gotten lucky when hunky neighborhood auto mechanic Adam (Jeremy Sisto) professes to find weirdness an attractive quality and begins hanging out with her. But their awkward big date takes an ugly turn when a cannibal-romance short film he made inspires her to bite a chunk out of his lip.

She succumbs distractedly to the affections of Polly (Anna Faris), the nymphomaniac lesbian secretary at the veterinary clinic where she works. But this too becomes unfulfilling when Polly proves to be no one-woman girl.

Driven further off-kilter by these disappointments and increasingly under the influence of her demonic doll, May grabs an assortment of scalpels from the clinic, kits herself out in a gothic-chic Halloween outfit, purchases a portable freezer and steps out on fright night to collect enough body parts to build the perfect friend. The run of grizzly murders is amusingly orchestrated, starting with a friendly, clueless punk (James Duval) and ending with Adam, whose strong hands May covets.

Mustering some psychological nuance through its comments on loneliness and rejection, this section is more entertaining than the slow setup, which too often presumes to be smarter and funnier than it actually is.

Bettis is initially somewhat irritating and fidgety, making May appear more simple-minded than anything else. But the thesp’s pixyish looks and quizzical gaze ultimately prove a snug fit for the bizarre character, bringing a degree of pathos to her desperate killing spree. Faris is fun as insatiably libidinous Polly, and Nichole Hiltz gets some laughs as her new babe, whose shapely gams catch May’s eye. Sisto’s relaxed, naturalistic style provides some relief to the unrelenting quirks.

Shot in deep, vivid colors, the pic gets good mileage on the soundtrack from a creepy singsong lullaby.

May

Production

A Lions Gate Films release of a 2 Loop Films production. Produced by Marius Balchunas, Scott Sturgeon. Executive producers, Eric Koskin, John Veague. Co-producer, Richard Middleton. Directed, written by Lucky McKee.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Steve Yedlin; editors, Debra Goldfield, Rian Johnson; music, Jaye Barnes-Luckett; production designer, Leslie Keel; art director, Charlie Gonzales; set decorator, Lorri Jakubuv; costume designers, Marcelo Pequeno, Mariano Diaz; sound (DTS), James Dehr; assistant director, Brad Arnold; casting, Shannon Makhanian. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 13, 2002. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

May - Angela Bettis
Adam - Jeremy Sisto
Polly - Anna Faris
Blank - James Duval
Ambrosia - Nichole Hiltz
Papa - Kevin Gage
Mama - Merle Kennedy
Young May - Chandler Hecht
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