Thursday, October 3, 2013

G.I. Gremlin: "Bad Milo!" runs with insane-in-the-mucus-membrane premise


Bad Milo! (2013)
85 min., rated R.

Just when you thought you'd seen every place a monster could emerge from in a horror movie, "Bad Milo!" pops onto the scene and might be the only butt-demon movie ever made, instantly making it the best of its kind. With a schlocky premise so off-the-charts bonkers and insane-in-the-mucus-membrane, writer-director Jacob Vaughan (who received the seal of approval from producers Mark and Jay Duplass) somehow gets away with tucking an earnest heart into the middle of this unusually likable and plainly absurd horror-comedy about an intestinal gremlin (!) running amok. It's not some great work of art, nor does it try or have to be, but it has a goofy, impish spirit that calls to mind 1974's "It's Alive," 1982's "Basket Case," and 1984's "Gremlins," along with a little David Cronenberg for good measure.

Mild-mannered Duncan (Ken Marino) doesn't deal well with stress, suffering from bad ulcers and gastrointestinal problems. At work in his L.A. accounting office, his unethical boss (Patrick Warburton) puts him in charge of layoffs. After a visit to the doctor, he learns that he has a polyp in his colon, but after passing out in the bathroom, Duncan discovers it's actually a demon residing inside his digestive tract and coming out to go on a killing spree (don't you hate it when that happens?). Soon, co-workers are dying in what are allegedly being called rabid raccoon attacks. If Duncan doesn't want the toothy little beastie, which he names Milo, to kill anybody else, he will have to bond with him and keep him "home." After all, they are one.

It's no secret that writer-director Vaughan and co-writer Benjamin Hayes aren't exactly going for subtlety here, as "Bad Milo!" just skirts the line of becoming one long, juvenile bathroom joke, but they really go for it and then rein in the cheap'n'cheesy tone more than they could have. In fact, more "Ted"-style bonding scenes with Duncan and Milo may have solidified the film's sentimental side before playing up the horror stuff. Production values are of the modestly low-budget variety but pretty solid, and Ted Masur's score has a playfully threatening composition that recalls Danny Elfman's work.

Considering everything he has to go through as the downtrodden Duncan, Marino is game and makes for an affable milquetoast. His performance is more reactionary and ultimately more touching than what we've come to expect from him. Gillian Jacobs plays it straight and sweet as worried, supportive wife Sarah, who, when the time comes, ends up warding off Milo with rubber dildos and an S&M paddle. In colorful supporting work, Peter Stormare plays the crackpot hypnotherapist who helps Duncan; Stephen Root is Duncan's woods-dwelling pothead father; and Mary Kay Place gets the least to do but still earns some laughs as Dunan's mother who's now with a man half her age. Milo himself is an animatronic puppet brought to life by Mike Ezell. The vicious little bugger looks like a cross between one of the "Ghoulies" and Baby Sinclair from the '90s TV show "Dinosaurs"; he's surprisingly as cute as everyone's favorite mogwai, Gizmo, when he isn't using his shark teeth to satisfy his ravenous appetite for blood.

As high-concept as you're going to get, the film still seems to use Milo as a metaphor for Duncan finally taking control of his life and, in less seriousness, could be read as an IBS sufferer's cautionary tale. Even when it gets a little too treacly for its own good, what "Bad Milo!" really comes down to is a slight, entertaining goof that pulls some surprises out of its, um, sleeve. Its premise might be more one-of-a-kind than the film itself, though if gross and weird are your tasteand you won't be easily scarred by an icky castration and the feeding of a mouse up Duncan's bum"Bad Milo!" might work its outrageous, low-budget charm on you. If you know what you're getting yourself into, check this one out before everyone starts reeling from "butt-demon movie" fatigue.

Grade: B - 

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