I am doing the 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Every day in October, I will watch a different horror film I have never seen before and write about it here on the blog.
Here’s the thing, folks: I can spend a few hundred words detailing everything wrong with the insipid and lazy piece of torture porn known as Scar, but where does that get any of us? How does my warning you, dear reader, over and over again not to watch the film because of all the ways it insults the viewer and wastes a reasonably good cast accomplish anything? This paragraph tells you everything you need to know about how I felt upon watching the film. Instead, let me spend a few hundred words praising the work of Angela Bettis, the supposed star (she spends much of the first two acts hanging out in the background) of this useless tripe, and lamenting the lack of good roles for this most underrated of actors.
It’s been over ten years since I first saw May. I only sought it out because it had a solid amount of buzz coming out of its festival run. Despite the positive vibes surrounding it, I had not read a review and didn’t know what the film was about. Simply put, that movie floored me. Part of the reason was the inventive script and direction of Lucky McKee (another talent who has not been able to fully capitalize on the creative triumph of May) and the other part was the performance of Bettis in the titular role.
At the time May came out, I had never before seen her in anything. I was vaguely aware that she had had a supporting role in Girl, Interrupted and had just played Carrie in a TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. Perhaps this unfamiliarity contributed to my reaction to her performance, but I came out of the theater raving about her and how she was bound to be a star.
And why shouldn’t I have been raving? In May, she was the complete package: intelligent, vulnerable, frightening, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Commercially, the film sank without a trace. It was hardly a mainstream movie, so this was not surprising. But I still expected Bettis to use it as a launching pad into mainstream leading roles.
But what I assumed would be her certain stardom never happened. I would see her pop up in small film and television roles. Each time, she did very good work with relatively weak characters and scripts.
Not surprisingly, her best roles since May have come courtesy of McKee. She was able to show off her comedic chops in Sick Girl, his Masters of Horror episode that veered close to slapstick in places. Her work in The Woman as the frightened and morally-compromised wife of a sociopath is the embodiment of despair. Both roles show off aspects of what she is capable of when given a good part, but they fail to take full advantage of her talents.
I should make it clear that I haven’t seen everything that Bettis has been in. When I finish my 31 Days of Horror, I plan to watch Drones, a fairly recent indie comedy that finds her in one of her rare leading roles. But the sad fact is that she will probably never break through as a lead actor. Despite still being a young woman, she might as well be over-the-hill as far as most directors and studio executives are concerned.
Of course, the argument could be made that supporting roles are usually the best roles. Bettis could continue working and find herself with a career similar to that of Thelma Ritter or Carol Kane—stealing scenes and becoming an actor who makes the audience smile when she appears. She is certainly the only reason I watched something that I knew would be as awful as Scar. Despite how bad the movie started and continued to become, I held out, waiting for a scene or moment when the director got out of the way and let Bettis do her thing. When she finally did get something in the script to sink her teeth into, she rewarded my patience and delivered a heartfelt performance. While it made me happy to see her avoid phoning it in, it also made me sad that she was yet again stuck with material so beneath her talents.
Screw it. Instead of a trailer for Scar, here’s a trailer for May. Better yet, go watch that movie. You’ll thank me later.
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