Directed by Jacob Vaughan
About 30 minutes into Jacob Vaughan’s Bad Milo, the great Peter Stormare, exploring the logistics surrounding the reinsertion of a small demon into one’s rectum, says, “Big fat babies come out of tiny vaginas. Maybe your anus is just like a vagina.” The title character then proceeds to climb back into its host’s bowels, thus proving that the anus is in fact just like a vagina. This is the level of absurdity we’re dealing with in Bad Milo; yet, for a movie that deals with a murderous butt demon, Bad Milo actually takes itself quite seriously.
Bad Milo focuses on the plight of Duncan (Marino), a man with so much stress in his life that it causes unbearably painful stomach issues. Pressured by his wife, Sarah (Jacobs), to see an esoteric therapist that specializes in hypnotherapy (Stormare), Duncan quickly learns the true source of his gastrointestinal distress: a small demon living in his colon. Unleashed from the bowels when the stress gets to be too much, the demon, dubbed Milo, goes on a murderous rampage, killing those it feels are causing the stress.
While the premise suggests a blood-filled and toilet humor-filled romp, Vaughan manages to use the colon-dwelling demon as a metaphor for taking control of your life and coming to terms with the negativity that surrounds it. Although it’s anything but subtle, with expository dialogue simply explaining what Milo represents and how to stop him, it helps to prevent the film sliding into something relegated to the bottom of a movie bin in the mid-Eighties. The result is a genuinely earnest and heartfelt film, with literal toilet humor rarely played explicitly for cheap laughs; it’s a side effect, but Vaughan never allows it to become overbearing.
In fact, almost everything in the film is a perfect counterbalance to the insanity inherent in its premise. Ken Marino’s performance is more subdued than one might expect from a man with a demon living in his colon, as all he seeks is an end to his turmoil. Sporting a serious case of puppy dog eyes, he plays Duncan as someone who is simply defeated. Opportunities to take advantage of the fact that he has a murderous minion at his disposal are there, but save for one instance, Duncan is little more than a sad man whose options to end his stress are controlled by the fact that he’s not a cliche. You can’t help but sympathize with his plight, and it makes his character all the more real for it.
The sources of his stress – his unethical boss (Warburton), his overbearing mother (Place), and his absent, New Age father (Stephen Root) – are all outlandish yet weirdly real, keeping the world in which mythological ass demons exist far more grounded in reality than it should be. Sadly, Warburton and Root are underutilized, leaving Place and her new sex toy Bobbi (Nanjiani) to pick up the slack in ways that would make even the most stalwart of men blush.
As for Milo itself, the evil little bugger resembles a razor-toothed mix of the Ghoulies and Baby Sinclair from Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs,” both in appearance and personality. Comparisons can be made to the character of Simon in Session 9, at least on a surface level; both represent personality characteristics typically kept subdued or bottled up. Vaughan could have easily kept the film a straightforward little B-movie about a rampaging ass demon, but his decision to inject a healthy dose of humanity and metaphor into the characters and story makes for an oddly charming yet absolutely insane debut feature.
Bad Milo is now available On Demand with a limited theatrical run beginning on October 4.
4 out of 5