Bad Milo! is an affectionate throwback to the horror movies of the 1970s and ’80s in which the monster was a physical manifestation of the protagonist’s stress and anxiety (David Cronenberg being thanked in the end credits is no accident). The problem is that director Jacob Vaughan, working from a screenplay he wrote with Benjamin Hayes, is too busy trying to make his movie funny-scary instead of just scary. When the accountant Duncan (Ken Marino) discovers the anal polyp that’s been bothering him is actually a carnivorous creature that crawls out of his butt to wreak havoc on his tormenters, the scene is played too broadly for the dark humor to register. Instead, the bit comes off as a Saturday Night Live skit — the wan kind that would air during the last half-hour of the show.
Vaughan uses old-school rubber and latex to create his monster Milo — a child-size, hairless troll with huge eyes and a huge mouthful of teeth. Milo is sweet and gentle to Duncan — he’s almost cute, like a pet dog — but he’s merciless to anyone who causes his master any grief, and the movie unloads a surprising amount of gore whenever he goes on a rampage.
Bad Milo! directly envokes a number of earlier pictures Vaughan clearly adores, including Basket Case, It’s Alive and even the workplace satire Office Space. But the movie fails to ground its promising (if preposterous) scenario in any kind of recognizable reality. Duncan’s relationship with his increasingly alarmed wife (Gillian Jacobs), his harebrained therapist (Peter Stormare), his overbearing mother (Mary Kay Place) and his overbearing boss (Patrick Warburton) are all played out on such a cartoonish level, you can’t take any of them seriously. Whatever metaphors were inherent in the idea of a man who forms a paternal bond with a physical incarnation of his neuroses are squandered by cheap laughs. And despite a game performance by the underrated Marino ( Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models), Bad Milo! just isn’t funny enough to pass muster as a comedy. Here is a movie that, much like its eponymous character, never quite figures out what it wants to be.