Stress affects us all in different ways. From the big pressures that come from things like our jobs or our relationships to the little things like being stuck in rush hour traffic or crossing paths with obnoxiously entitled people, there's a lot to cope with on a day-to-day basis that can make the simple act of getting up in the morning an exercise in frustration. Fortunately, many know how to cope with it, whether it be through yoga or taking a vacation or actively keeping life in perspective, but for others, bottling it all in seems like the smartest thing to do, until - inevitably - it all bubbles over and results in something bad physically or emotionally.
For Duncan (Ken Marino), stress management isn't his strong suit, and it's beginning to take its toll on him in the form of inexplicable gastric issues that leave him doubled over in pain. Despite his wife's concerns, he's stuck under the thumb of his demanding, total jerk of a boss and faced with a host of other stressors until, one day, he passes out under the pressure of his stomach pains only to wake up and learn that one of the people that had been causing him problems has been viciously attacked and murdered, the news branding the death as an animal attack.
With the assistance of his eccentric therapist, he soon comes to find out that the murder wasn't committed by an animal, but instead by a creature living inside Duncan's intestines. As the physical manifestation of all of Duncan's stress, the creature - who Duncan comes to name Milo - finds its way out of Milo (via his rectum, no less) time and again to hunt down and punish everyone stressing Duncan out. But as people continue to die, Duncan is forced to face his personal issues and discover whether he can find a way to keep Milo in check or stop the creature before it's too late.
Bad Milo! is - to put it mildly - an oddball of a movie with a delightfully weird premise, and one that owes a lot to a whole host of '80s creature features, from the ever-popular Gremlins to the crazy cult film Basket Case. Hell, at times it even felt as though it could be a plot straight out of one of the more offbeat episodes of The X-Files had it been told from a different perspective; in fact, the show did once feature an episode involving a tiny mystic crawling up inside of people, which only goes to show just how far-reaching Bad Milo!'s influences are.
Wisely, the film doesn't try to play its premise straight, instead opting to strike a balance between horror and humor on its way to delivering a true B-movie final product. For the most part, it works, though there are a few moments sprinkled throughout that feel off somehow, mainly as a result of some occasionally bland camerawork that taps less into the types of movies it's honoring and more into SyFy Original territory.
Fortunately, though, what the film lacks in that arena it more than makes up for with a great cast. Marino is joined by a lineup that features Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root, Patrick Warburton, Kumail Nanjiani, Mary Kay Place, and a scene-stealing Peter Stormare, all of whom are thoroughly game, their tongues all firmly placed in cheek without it being obnoxious to the point of disconnecting viewers with the film. At a point, if a cast can't take it seriously enough, then neither can audiences. With certain films striving for the tone Bad Milo! is going for, it can often feel like everyone involved is part of one big joke they're clearly having a blast telling that you're actually not invited to be a part of, but everyone here strikes a solid balance of falling in line with the overall tone to where it's clear that any viewer is welcomed with open arms into the joke so long as they're willing to let themselves run with it.
On a thematic level, Bad Milo! has some good (if obvious) things to say about anxiety underneath all the gross-out stuff - and in a film about a murderous creature who crawls out from a man's anus to murder people, there's definitely a healthy serving of gross-out stuff - but really, it's hard not to come into a movie like this and put all your hopes in its success on the shoulders of its titular creature. Milo himself is entirely practical, cheesy without looking cheap, and the way he swings between being adorably timid and outright enraged is surprisingly effective; had he not been a creature who crawls in and out of a man's anus, it would be easier to see people wanting plush dolls of their own of him in his "cute" form. Had Milo himself not worked, the film wouldn't have worked, but thankfully the little guy is a charming and welcome addition to the genre.
Bad Milo! barely runs 80 minutes long, meaning there's not a whole lot of substance here to dissect in between all the visual gags, quips, and monster mayhem, but as a result, it never feels like it's dragging its feet, the pacing in particular clicking along and allowing itself to bow out before overstaying its welcome. It's not a grandiose film, but it's not trying to be, and while it never reaches the heights of the movies it's emulating, nor is it something that will be for everyone by simple virtue of what is unabashedly is, it's still ridiculously charming and more than worth a watch if you're into horror-comedies and creature features of all sorts.
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