Introduction: During a Bostonian summit with our Blerd-in-chief, I casually mentioned that I couldn’t wait for the Halloween season to roll around. “I mean, it’s Halloween,” I practically giggled. “It’s like my Christmas.” And it’s hard to qualify what that statement means, particularly considering that to half of you, I’ve practically announced myself as a dark soul, sacrificing animals to the dark lords in his basement. (Joke’s on you, kiddos! I don’t even have a basement.) But I find that the opposite is true; the Halloween season finds me in laudably high spirits, partly because literally every hot beverage in the world is goosed with a syringe full of intriguing pumpkin spices, and partially because, well, I plain like horror movies.
Thus, the 31 Days of Halloween. One movie for each day in October, leading up to the unveiling of the greatest Halloween movie of all time on the day itself. (Spoiler Alert: It is highly unlikely that you’ll be surprised. But it’s Halloween, so you’ll be dressed as a slutty cheerleader or a Federal Boob Inspector and three sheets from all the rum-spiked cider, so you won’t mind.) These isn’t my list of the greatest horror movies of all time, mind you, although there’s certainly a fair amount of spillover; this is just a collection of great, holiday-appropriate entertainment, designed to stimulate your mind, punch up your heart rate, and perhaps void your bowels. Nothing more, nothing less. Enjoy!
Director Lucky McKee’s May functions, for quite some time, as a particularly deranged romantic comedy. This is horror gold; horror movies that hinge on a sharp contrast in severity (“that escalated quickly,” films like this make me deadpan in my best Ron Burgundy) have a long and rich tradition in the art form. Consider a Rosemary’s Baby with two hours spent on Rosemary’s hellspawn, or a Carrie where the titular teenager rampages for all 90 minutes; films that take the time to build the narrative up to a logical snapping point rarely botch the pass, mostly because they’re made by filmmakers willing to invest time in character development and careful plotting.
That’s all well and good, but it’s worth noting that May offers, as a horror bonus, peals of pitch-black, rip-snorting laughter. May is played by Angela Bettis with a sublime mixture of pathos and genuinely off-putting creepiness, and yet the film never shies away from the way grounded, real-world folks would react to her left-of-center aura. May falls deeply in obsession with Jeremy Sisto’s Adam, a real-life horror cinephile who finds himself attracted to her quirks, until those quirks reveal something deeper. It’s a realistic botched romance – what starts out as a charming attraction between two lovable weirdos soon dismantles itself when one of the participants is outed as a legitimate, potentially dangerous weirdo. It’s all very organic, and in the lonely May’s desperate search for companionship – she often comes across as one on the fringes of society, awkwardly saying all the wrong things around people – we’re never sure if she’s awkward or dangerous, a key component to humanizing the character.
And as such, May would be an agreeably dark character study without its final act; with it, May becomes a full-fledged horror movie, with all the macabre humor and wanton grue that implies. Without revealing any of the devious pleasures of its climax, May spends her entire Halloween heeding her departed mother’s advice: “If you can’t find a friend… make one.” It’s a delightful turn of phrase in the film’s context, and McKee really turns the screws on her holiday rampage. With elements of Carrie and Frankenstein flying like stray body parts, it’s a glorious coda to a dastardly, off-beat charmer; the final shot alone is such a ballsy and disturbing and oddly touching maneuver that it deserves to be respected for those final 10 seconds alone.
Extra Credit: If McKee’s May is appealing to your darker sensibilities, take some time to see his latest, The Woman. The gore feels realer and the violence is more excruciating, but it’s so potent a suburban satire that it’s almost flammable.