Posts Tagged ‘Lucky McKee


Roman (2006)

Roman watches television.

Roman watches television.

Lucky McKee’s May is without a doubt one of my favorite horror movies. The more stuff of his that I watch, the more I dig: Sick Girl, All Cheerleaders Die and The Woman are all great too. So it was only a matter of time before we finally watched Roman, which has McKee not only writing but also starring, with Angela Bettis of May fame behind the camera this time. The switcheroo bears interesting, if somewhat frustrating fruit.

Roman (McKee) is a welder by day and a lurker by night. The masculine dudes he works with poke fun at him while at the lunch table, mocking his lack of a television and his inability to join in on regular guy conversations. At home, Roman sits by the window with a beer, a cigarette, and a longing to see the girl next door (Kristen Bell) pick up her mail. One day, Roman changes it up a bit and has his beer and ciggy outside. This turns out to be a decision that will change Roman’s life forever, because Dream Girl just happens by and asks for a drink.

Boy oh boy Roman sure does love his Dream Woman.

Boy oh boy Roman sure does love his Dream Woman.

Well, one thing leads to another and eventually they’re back in Roman’s apartment. But awkward dudes are awkward, and Dream Girls never really know how to deal with that, so she tries to leave. Roman’s emotions take over and, well, things don’t end well. That doesn’t necessarily mean Roman’s not going to pursue a relationship with this lovely lady, though…

Suddenly, Roman seems to open up. The guys at work are noticing a difference, even beyond the fact that all he’s eating these days is canned pork and beans. There’s even a new girl he’s started seeing, who might be just as batshit weird as he is. Maybe even weirder. Awkward guys never had it so good!

Roman is almost like May in reverse. This time, it’s the lonely, awkward guy who has to work hard to “make” new friends. And like May’s, Roman’s world is made up of largely imagined relationships. When they get real, shit gets dangerous. The real difference is, unlike May, Roman actually finds someone who is more fucked up than he is.

Roman loves picnics in the park.

Roman loves picnics in the park.

I have to admit, this movie frustrated me a little bit. I’m all for low-budget flicks, but sometimes a movie is almost too low budget for me to fully enjoy. I kind of felt like that with Roman. It just looks shitty to a distracting degree. It also moves at a glacial pace and seems as though they’re trying to stretch material that would work better for a short film into a feature-length deal. All that being said, in retrospect I think I enjoyed this a lot more than I felt like I did right after I watched it. I guess perhaps it takes a little time to digest. It’s definitely a rare occasion for me to say something like this, but I think it could be polished up and repackaged into a prettier picture someday, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. But if you like McKee’s and Bettis’s work, this is still worth a watch, for sure.


All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

allcheerleadersdieposterFor day 16 of 31 Days of Horror, we picked Lucky McKee’s All Cheerleaders Die. This one somehow managed to totally skirt my radar; I hadn’t even heard of it until Q suggested we mine the Netflix instant queue to make up for the fact that the movie we really wanted to see that night, The Babadook, had sold out (though I was pissed, at least people are still going to the movies). I haven’t seen a lot of McKee’s stuff, but I loved Maylot, and his offering for Masters of Horror, Sick Girl was a bright shining light in a series that was more often dull than not. So, I was excited to give this one a shot.

When the film started, I thought we were going to be in for a rough, unpleasant ride. Our main girl Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is filming her best friend Lexi to find out what it’s like to be the captain of the cheerleading team, evidently for some school project. As stereotypes might predict, Lexi is an over-confident, air-headed bitch. Why Maddy, an apparently thoughtful, dorkish girl is her best friend I still don’t quite understand. Anyway, during filming one practice while Lexi is trying to show us her best stuff, the team drops her straight on her head, and she snaps her neck and dies. I worried the whole movie was going to be seen through Maddy’s lens, but thankfully after Lexi’s accident (or was it?) the movie carries on (mostly) without Maddy’s camera.

Maddy doesn’t believe Lexi’s death was accidental, so she aims to spend her senior year destroying the lives of those she holds responsible. The two who will feel her wrath most are Terry, Lexi’s ex-boyfriend and captain of the football team, and Tracy, the new captain of the cheerleading team and Terry’s new squeeze. A smart and resourceful girl, Maddy knows the best way to wreak havoc is from within, so she tries out for the cheerleading team. After all, everyone knows there’s an open spot…

For the first half or so, All Cheerleaders Die is a seemingly normal movie. We know from the title alone that something is going to go horribly, terribly wrong with Maddy’s plot, but I’ll be damned if I could’ve guessed the direction McKee would take this flick. Turns out Maddy’s obsessive, Wiccan ex-girlfriend Leena is not willing to let her go, despite the potential consequences. After an altercation between the football team and the cheerleaders causes a terrible car accident in which all the girls die, Leena whips out her Wicca and brings the girls back to life with magic stones. But resurrection comes at a terrible price, and the girls turn into blood-sucking zombie vampire things.

Boy oh boy, people seem to hate this movie! I read a few reviews after watching it and I’ve got to say, I don’t understand where all the vitriol and disappointment comes from. Since when did we start taking horror-comedies so damn seriously? I thought it was pleasantly surprising, original and funny. Looks like only 40% of viewers agree with me. A lot of folks seem turned off by the juxtaposition of the film’s apparent feminist plot with its objectification of the female characters. Sure, there’s an awful lot of scenes with women wearing revealing cheerleading uniforms, but my guess is that’s because they’re cheerleaders. Anyway, I feel like the baring of female flesh implicates the audience far more than it does the director; it’s almost teasing us, daring us to admit we’re a little turned on when we know we shouldn’t be. When Tracy walks into a stranger’s home in her underwear begging for something to eat, both the man and the audience are horrified by her newfound hunger and her unabashed urge to sate it, while also having our own base animal urges tickled. Nothing is neither more frightening nor hot than an empowered young woman, no?

I also don’t think the naysayers give enough credit to McKee’s treatment of stereotypes. At first the cheerleaders do seem pretty damn vapid, but I ended up sympathizing with all of them by the end of the movie. Just like everyone else they each have their own unique set of fears, hopes, dreams and idiosyncrasies. They’re just fucked-up high-school kids like everyone else at their school, it’s just easier for them to hide behind the assumptions the rest of society’s already made about how they should behave. I think it is fair to say that Maddy comes to the same realization as the rest of us do; these bitches aren’t so bad after all. My one beef is how unceremoniously most of them are dispatched by the end of the film. I suppose the purpose of that is to show us how our society is structured in such a way that the strongest man will always beat out the strongest of women, even if they are blood-sucking monsters. The men are treated far less kindly, I’d say; Terry’s captain is one cruel mother fucker, and his “boys” are pretty much trapped under his yoke. The one sympathetic boy tries to leave the team, but is forced to relent as Terry beats the shit out of him. There’s pretty much no redemption for the men in All Cheerleaders Die.

This is, of course, one of those movies that only a small group of people will appreciate. It is irreverent, offensive, gory and exploitative. It certainly isn’t meant for mass-consumption; a run-of-the-mill cheerleader slasher this is not, and thank the Wiccan gods for that. Fair warning that some of the special effects are quite cheesy (those glowing stones aren’t fooling anyone), but I’m willing to forgive that small piece of the puzzle. I found this so surprisingly delightful, and it gives me hope that all those bad reviews I read of The Woman are written by the same people who wrote bad reviews of this flick. At the very least, if this sounds appealing to you in any way, shape or form it is worth giving it a chance; you’ll at least have something to think about.


May (2002)

May at the eye doctor.

May at the eye doctor.

If you’re like me, you probably talk to horror movies when you watch them. Typically it’s along the lines of “Don’t go in there!” or “Don’t open that box, it’s from Hell!” With Lucky McKee’s May, it’s slightly different. I found myself covering my eyes and shouting “No, he doesn’t want you to call him again!” and “It’s not normal to tell your crush about the time that dog’s guts burst open onto the concrete while chuckling with amusement!” May is the ultimate experience in Fremdscham.

As a child, young May (Angela Bettis) had a lazy eye. The only solution to the problem was for the little girl to wear a black eye patch. May wasn’t all that concerned about it, but her picture-perfect mother sure was, and soon May understood why: it doesn’t take much for shitty little kids to shun you. Sadly,

May and Adam's hands.

May and Adam’s hands.

May only grew up with one friend, Suzy. And, sadder still, Suzy is not a person, but a doll in a glass box.

As one might expect, the adult version of May doesn’t really pick up on social cues. At all. She’s never had a boyfriend. Shit, she’s never had a living friend at all. Most of her social interaction comes from the vet’s office where she works, sewing up dogs and cats. In her spare time, she sews her own kooky clothes. She doesn’t know what a real friendship is like; in fact, she totally lacks any understanding of how human relationships work. She only sees people for their beautiful parts: Adam (Jeremy Sisto), a man she sees around town, has perfect hands. Her co-worker Polly (Anna Faris) has a gorgeous neck. The problem with the world, as May sees it, is there are no perfect wholes, just pretty parts.

May's relationship with Suzy is on the rocks...

May’s relationship with Suzy is on the rocks…

After skulking around town spying on Adam for a while, May decides it is time to make a move – a terribly awkward move that exposes May’s weirdness. Lucky for May, Adam really, really likes weird (while I find this thread of the movie very interesting indeed, I can’t do it as much justice as the A.V. Club, so just read their article on May here). After a bumbling kiss and a bite of love, Adam realizes that May is actually too fucking weird and ducks out on their relationship. Seeing as how May is new to dating, she doesn’t get it, and decides to continue her pursuit. The eventual humiliation she suffers at Adam’s hands finally pushes her over the edge, and May takes up the needle to create the monster we’ve been waiting for her to sew up since the movie

Breaking up is hard to do.

Breaking up is hard to do.


May is a movie about how truly sad loneliness can be. She is so lonely it hurts to watch; I found myself wanting to shake her and enroll her in Human Interaction 101. Having been raised in a home obsessed with perfection, May, of course, is utterly disappointed with real people. When no one reciprocates her genuine interest and excitement, she is utterly at a loss. The poor girl means well, but she has no way to really communicate that. The shallow people around her are only interested in their perceptions of May, and not actually in what makes her tick. But, I suppose May is also more interested in how she expects people to be than how they actually are. Perhaps that just proves how hard it really is for anyone to find any real connection in this world. Some of us are just normal enough to get by.


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