Runs Fri., Oct. 4–Thurs., Oct. 10 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Rated R. 85 minutes.
There are places even the celebrated body-horror filmmaker David Cronenberg wouldn’t go. Places—you might say—where the sun don’t shine. Such a place is explored in Bad Milo!, an energetic exercise in execrable taste that locates the source of its protagonist’s problems in the lower gastrointestinal tract. Ken (Ken Marino) carries a lot of stress inside him: His job as a number-cruncher is poisoned by a corrupt boss (Patrick Warburton); his wife (Gillian Jacobs) wants a child; and his father (Stephen Root) won’t speak to him. Ken’s mother (Mary Kay Place) has taken up with a much younger man (Kumail Nanjiani), and they suspect Ken’s physical ailments are a sign of erectile dysfunction.
If only. No, the source of Ken’s chronic stomach pain is the big-eyed, sharp-toothed demon living inside his colon. The beastie, named Milo, has the ability to leap out and slaughter Ken’s enemies. As if that weren’t bad enough, Milo has the ability to slip back inside his host after running his errands, which somehow seems much, much worse. Director Jacob Vaughn includes just enough social context to prove he knows what he’s doing; in a world of cold corporate behavior and personal estrangement, why wouldn’t the demons inside begin to run amok? And thanks to explanations from Ken’s therapist, played by Fargo’s Peter Stormare at his wiggiest, we’re left with no doubt that Milo exists to act out Ken’s repressed wishes and represent the undigested compromises of existence.
If it is not already evident, we should note that Bad Milo! is absolutely a comedy. The non sequiturs come in a steady stream, and the actors—as the end-credits blooper reel confirms—have been encouraged to improvise their way through individual scenes. (Toby Huss, as the doctor who informs Ken that he appears to have “a trouper in your pooper,” is especially incorrigible; he could easily merit his own DVD extra feature.) The cast is expert, led by the big-shouldered, straight-faced Marino, a veteran of The State and its comedic spinoffs. Still, there is no skimping on horror-movie gore, which makes the movie difficult to peg: It’s funny, it’s gross, and it has a few serious things on its mind. Is it any wonder David Cronenberg is thanked in the end credits?