Lucky McKee’s second feature creates an indelible protagonist in May, thanks in no small part to the moving central performance from Angela Bettis that anchors this film. Socially inept because of debilitating shyness brought on by a lazy eye, vet tech May struggles to deal with even the most minor aspects of adulthood. She still spends much of her time talking to Suzie, a childhood doll kept in a glass case, given to May by her mother who suggested that May can always make a friend if she can’t find one in the real world. May is a misfit protagonist very much in the mode of Carrie, and even when a bit of kindness comes into her life — a potential romantic interest that initially seems game for May’s morbid sexual tastes until she draws blood while they’re making out, blind children who are charmed by May’s stories and ability to connect with them as an outsider, a friendship with a beautiful co-worker that May aspires to be — her lifelong rejection from “normal” society has rendered May unable to deal with normal social interactions.
It’s difficult to watch May try to function within normal society and fail over and over again, and McKee’s film is totally sympathetic towards her, even after blood starts flowing. May is one of the best examples of character-driven horror, and it’s impossible not to feel for May as she struggles to engage with cultural standards of female beauty and friendships, romantic relationships, and simple human interaction. Female misfits, antiheroes, and unlikable female characters are still fairly rare as protagonists, but in horror, where the outsider is often king (or in this case, queen), there are more opportunities to explore female otherness than in most other major genres.
After Suzie is accidentally destroyed by May’s young friends, she cracks, and decides to take her mother’s advice to heart: she’ll build a new friend out of the leftover body parts from those who have wronged her throughout the film. But she’s still not satisfied as Amy, the new friend, cannot see. May turns to self-mutilation in order to make Amy perfect in a way she can never be, and finally rids herself of the eye that has caused much of her awkwardness and shame. It’s clear that McKee wanted to combine parts of the Frankenstein story along with the thematic notion of beauty being in the eye of the beholder to guide May’s final actions, and the film has an incredibly moving final moment that blends May’s fractured reality with the fantasy life that has always been kinder to her. May simply wants what we all want — human warmth and affection — but because she’s always been the misfit, the weirdo, the outsider, she goes about it in a violent way that leaves her more alone than ever. McKee’s film has more empathy for its protagonist than most other horror films, and May is a powerful story of the need to belong, told from the perspective of a thoroughly strange female protagonist.