Body horror gets replaced with toilet humor in Bad Milo!, a gross-out comedy that reworks the premise of David Cronenberg’s 1979 shocker The Brood into a story about a man (Ken Marino) who has a toothy rubber monster living in his ass. When the man gets stressed, he shits out the monster, and it goes on a rampage—slashing throats, biting off penises—before squirming its way back up his butthole.
The monster is not a metaphor, the man says, though, of course, it is—for anxieties, repressed anger, and all of the other shit our mild-mannered, middle-class hero keeps inside of himself. Like The Brood, Bad Milo! has a gendered view of horror, siding with fathers against mothers and finding revulsion—or, in this case, poop jokes—in the birthing process. The earlier film’s anxieties about parenthood are present and accounted for, and, as the main character’s New Age psychiatrist, Peter Stormare is on hand to deliver parodies of Cronenberg’s pseudo-clinical dialogue (“Maybe your anus is just like a vagina”).
Director/co-writer Jacob Vaughn, a longtime indie editor, filters all of this unease through a broad, midnight-audience-ready style. The performances are over-the-top, the characterizations are crude, and the special effects are unconvincing; all of this is done with a wink, allowing the audience to laugh at the badness but still feel as though they’re laughing along with the filmmakers instead of at them. This attitude seems indebted to Troma’s self-aware exploitation flicks; considering the movie’s points of reference, Bad Milo! sometimes feels like itwas cooked up in the Cult section of a 1990s video store.
But like a lot of intentionally shoddy or derivative movies, Bad Milo! can’t overcome what it’s trying to be. It’s neither focused enough to work as straight parody, nor outrageous enough to be appreciated for its excess; it’s a movie about butt monsters where butts are never shown. (The power of suggestion doesn’t really apply in the case of a movie where a shark-toothed ass demon is beaten back with dildos.) Furthermore, without some kind of satirical framework, “fake” sexism—like “fake” racism—is indistinguishable from the real thing. Eventually, even the gross-out jokes becomes one-note, which is a shame, considering Vaughn manages to work in some good visual gags (an Animal Control “crime scene”; a Mayan carving illustrating what Stormare calls “the ancient myth surrounding the anus”) that have nothing to do with rubber monsters or poop.