Stress, anxiety, and rage will kill you, but apparently there are worse things than death.
How’d you like to have your colon serve as a condo for a vicious ass-demon? How’d you like to share your life with this poop covered, wide-eyed, horri-dorable monster? Such is the burden and maybe the blessing for Duncan (Ken Marino), an office drone who suddenly finds himself clenching to keep his loved ones safe from the beast that lives up his tush in Bad Milo, a new horror comedy from Jacob Vaughan and the brothers Duplass that was seemingly born to be a new cult classic.
This one won’t appeal to everyone, but fans of lighthearted creature features like Gremlins will be in a state of bliss, watching Marino slowly accept his odd condition and eventually learn to care for the creature. In fact, though the film deserves high praise for absurdest humor that doesn’t feel particularly low brow (I have now seen someone artfully dish out poo humor), it is actually the way that Duncan conquers his greatest anxiety by way of a paternal relationship with Milo, that allows this to really stand out.
Speaking of Milo, he is not a CG creation, but rather, a puppet. This is both noticeable, appreciated, and necessary to carry on in the tradition of Critters and Gremlins. There is just something about practical effects that make the bizarre more palatable. It makes the in-human seem human, and throughout this film, we learn to care for Milo, even as he is aggressively crossing off the names of people who have wronged or stressed out Duncan, including his wife, who is played by Gillian Jacobs from Community as a woman who longs to start a family but who isn’t a tropey, naggy, wife caricature.
The fantastic Mary Kay Place also has a sizable role, playing Duncan’s mother and Kumail Nanjiani’s lover in the nighttime. Their relationship needles at Duncan thanks to the much younger Nanjiani’s attempts at fathering, but in truth, Duncan reserves most of his pent up anger for his father, an off-the-grid hippie who left Duncan when he was 12. Stephen Root is, as per usual, rock solid in that small but impressionable role, as is Patrick Warburton in douchey-jock-boss mode and Peter Stormare, who plays a hypno-therapist and confidant that urges Duncan to bond with Milo in hopes of containing him.
As for Marino, it’s nice to see him in a lead role, playing a man that is being dragged through life, weak of will and limp because of his anxiety and the ease with which he can be bullied.
Bad Milo isn’t without fault — it would have been nice to see Duncan deal with some emotional distress after he fully embraces Milo’s talents for the first time and the end is a bit too tidy — but overall, director and co-writer Jacob Vaughan put together an original horror comedy/creature feature with a clear reverence for its roots and a helping hand from a stellar ensemble. This is fun genre film that deserves the cult following that it will likely get.
Bad Milo is available on VOD with a theatrical release planned for October 4th.