“Ken Marino can’t act anything but stupid,” my buddy Andrew said to me as I was starting to wrap up our conversation to attend a screening of the new horror comedy Marino stars in, Bad Milo. We quickly went over his long list of television roles, realizing that he’s done surprisingly well since The State. Yet we weren’t sure how he would be as the leading man in a horror film. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m telling you: he’s perfect.
In fact, the only character who manages to overshadow him in this excellently funny new horror comedy is the title character, Milo. And Milo is a little monster that is living inside of Ken Marino’s guts.
Marino stars as Duncan. Duncan is far too stressed out and it is starting to have a negative effect on his life. His girlfriend Sarah (Community’s Gillian Jacob) wants to have a baby, and his mother (Mary Kay Place) is trying to introduce him to a fertility doctor (Steve Zissis) to force him into it. His pushy boss (Patrick Warburton) has reassigned Duncan to be in charge of a sudden wave of layoffs. To top it all off, his doctor (Toby Huss) has just found a lump in Duncan’s colon. Claiming his bowel issues are a result of the stress, the doctor sends Duncan to a therapist (Peter Stromare) to work it out.
Of course, the lump isn’t what it appears to be. It’s actually a tiny demon that, under moments of extreme anxiety, crawls out of Duncan’s posterior to wreak further havoc on his life.
Directed by Jacob Vaughan and produced by the Duplass Brothers, you’d assume that Bad Milo came from the world of mumblecore, but it’s nothing like that at all. It’s really a horror movie, made for an audience that loves the genre. And for a low budget film, it’s excellently shot on the Red, well-structured, and fantastically acted. It’s a horror-comedy that, despite having the comically stupid hook of a butt-monster, doesn’t take the easy way out and lean too heavily on its silly premise. Bad Milo has actually got some substance.
The film even takes the time to comically psychoanalyze itself via Peter Stormare’s crackpot therapist. It’s not only hysterical, it’s brilliant. It’s like The Brood with a man pooping a monster.
If you are a monster movie fan, or you grew up loving Gremlins, you’ll be absolutely thrilled by Milo. He’s done almost entirely practically; he’s a walking, growling, expressive little puppet. The design on Milo is completely awesome, with big cute eyes and a wide mouth filled with layers of sharp little teeth. His movements and interactions with the set and the actors are just superb. It’s delightful.
Each character seems, although as highly unrealistic as everything else happening in the film, fully formed in a way that supports their existence in the Bad Milo world. Of course, they are all comedians, but they each have a few bombastic quirks that make their scenes unique and distinctly pleasurable to watch. In fact, they are so good, you won’t even be able to tell that any of the film is being improvised until the improv outtakes roll during the ending credits. Gillian Jacobs might actually be the weakest link in the cast, but she’s so adorable that you forgive her. I don’t understand why Marino hasn’t starred in more films; he’s charming, and his performance is shockingly layered and sympathetic for a man with a monster in his butt.
The score sounds something like a direct-to-video 90s film, reminiscent of a Full Moon instrumentation. It may be the film’s only weakness, as it somewhat belies how good this movie looks and how solid the performances are.
I anticipate Bad Milo doing roughly nothing theatrically, getting a big response on VOD, and blowing up once it becomes available streaming, a la Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Magnet, who is releasing the film, is good at that, and I suspect this film is going to be a new classic.
Bad Milo is available On Demand today, and will have a limited theatrical release starting on October 4th.