By Gabe Toro | The Playlist October 3, 2013 at 10:01AM
Look, you’re just going to have to come to terms with the fact that “Bad Milo!” is about a man who has a monster that grows out of his ass and kills people. If you’re not willing to get onboard with that premise, this isn’t a movie that’s going to sway your initial feelings. And that’s okay: movies aren’t meant to be for everyone, as much as contemporary demographics might beg. They used to make genre films that occupied a very specific, very weird part of the video store where your mother, your teachers, and even your philistine babysitter dare not venture. “Bad Milo!” to its credit, would have been one of them.
Ken Marino stars as Ken, a mild-mannered office minion at an indistinct finance job where his building stress is just one of many that irritate his notoriously feeble bowels. It’s an hour a day on the can for this office drone, who has to put up with the snarky, subterranean abuses of a blowhard boss (Patrick Warburton) that would rather turn the bathroom into a new office space than give poor overworked Ken a promotion. At home, it's his wife Sarah (Gillian Jacobs), who presses him on not disappearing to the loo so often, while also suggesting they should look into having a child.
A visit to the doctor reveals something mighty peculiar about that stomach situation: Ken has something growing up there, which seems to be a polyp, but is actually a terrifying little sharp-toothed monster poking at Ken’s insides. You really only need observe some of the smaller details to get the picture, like the creature’s sharp claws, or the anguish of Ken’s face. Director Jacob Vaughan is not a director of small details and the sound effects allow you to hear the ripping of Ken’s anus as this little beast emerges, covered in feces. Ken passes out on the floor while the monster rampages through his life, brutally murdering his aggressors. At least Vaughan has the decency to refrain from showing what Ken passes out into.
Peter Stormare, in a typically kooky performance, plays a therapist who correctly deduces that the creature, dubbed Milo, is a manifestation of Ken’s pressure in life. Yes, there is a scene where someone opens up a dusty textbook, and yes, there are ancient illustrations of an ass-demon as something that once existed in polite society. Touches like these that ring as ridiculous, but also respectful of the horror genre. Milo is a juvenile idea for a character, but the filmmaking never once treats him like a joke of a beast and the damage the creature does is serious.
Which is a blessing, since, sadly, the movie isn’t very funny. Most of the jokes are so old they need dust blown off them: Kumail Nanjiani plays Ken’s age-inappropriate new step-father, flirting and fondling sitcommy Mary Kay Place, and neither performer can draw a whole lot of comedy from that hoary concept. Stephen Root can’t do anything in an underwritten role as Ken’s deadbeat stoner dad, slipping in and out of intoxication at random points, ultimately proving a supposedly-cathartic distraction meant to drag the proceedings to feature length. And even Marino and Jacobs, two wonderfully funny performers, play it straight, giving the film a semi-plausible reality, but leaving the heavy lifting to the supporting cast. Why bother having the two funniest members of your cast play the straight men?
The best and most praise-worthy element of “Bad Milo!” is the titular creature itself. This little troublemaker seems almost entirely made up of practical effects and puppet work, able to come across as both a mogwai and a gremlin. Frequently, its teeth are bared and its (he’s?) ready to do damage. But in a relaxed state, the pointy teeth vanish and the eyes blow up wide, like an innocuous “E.T.” You get the sense if anyone else were to make the movie, they’d settle on a cheap CGI monstrosity. But the puppet work is superb in this picture, giving this character a surprising weight and gravity that you just don’t see in artificial characters onscreen. “Bad Milo!” is ultimately a fairly pedestrian film, but in those moments where Milo takes action, if you squint, there’s just a little bit of that old-fashioned movie magic. You’ll just have to deal with the fact that it comes from a creature that crawls out of a man’s ass. [C+]