Yet another attempt to blend gross-out humor, bloody mayhem and monster thriller cliches into a hodge-podge sufficiently appealing to achieve cult status, “Milo” seems ready-made to serve as homescreen entertainment for rowdy fratboys and undiscriminating genre geeks. Magnet Releasing, which picked up this over-the-top mashup shortly after its world premiere at SXSW, doubtless hopes for at least some theatrical action. But it’s questionable whether there’s much of an aud outside of fests and what remains of the midnight-movie circuit for a pic about a guy plagued by a bloodthirsty demon that uses his colon as a condo.
Credit Ken Marino for remaining as fearless and shameless as the material requires while playing the lead role of Duncan Hayslip, an overworked financial advisor who discovers the cause of his chronic gastrointestinal distress is a toothy, creepy creature that resembles the love child of E.T. and a piranha.
The revelation comes at what might seem like an inconvenient time for Duncan, who’s already stressed out by his new workplace responsibilities — in addition to handling accounts, he’s overseeing management-mandated layoffs — and the none-too-subtle pressures brought to bear by his oppressive mom (Mary Kay Place), who wants to know why he and his lovely wife (Gillian Jacobs) haven’t yet provided her with grandchildren.
On the other hand, as Duncan learns, having a murderous demon occasionally depart from your butt and feast on troublemakers — like an overbearing, embezzling boss (Patrick Warburton), or a clumsily destructive co-worker (Eric Charles Nielsen) — may not be an entirely unwelcome development.
Predictably, the various departures and returns of the demon (nicknamed Milo by his, ahem, host) trigger quite a few bouts of volcanic elimination. As a result, Marino spends a lengthy swath of screentime wearing a shirt intended to appear flecked with human waste.
Some viewers will cackle at this running gag. Others simply will gag. Many scenes in “Milo” are bound to elicit similarly disparate responses.
Working from an anything-goes screenplay he co-wrote with Benjamin Hayes, helmer Jacob Vaughan also bids for laughs with spewing geysers of blood each time Milo munches on a supporting character, and cartoonish performances that suggest Vaughan told his actors to dial it up to 11, and then show him what 12 looks like.
Two of the most valuable overplayers are Peter Stormare as Duncan’s eccentric psychiatrist, who’s fortuitously well-versed in “ass demon” lore, and Stephen Root as the protagonist’s long-estranged (and justifiably so) father. But Kumal Najiani turns out to be the stealthiest scene-stealer as the conspicuously younger new husband of Duncan’s mother, who purrs like a happy cougar whenever her boy-toy says something inappropriately explicit about their sex life.
Special effects and other production values are passable, which certainly represents a marked improvement over the ’80s B-movies and direct-to-vid features that obviously inspired the pic.
Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight), March 15, 2013. Running time: 83 MIN.
A Magnet Releasing release of a New Artists Alliance production in association with Floren Shieh Prods. and Duplass Brothers Prods. Produced by Adele Romanski, John Suits, Gabriel Cowan. Executive producers, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, John Norris, Clay Floren, Aimee Shieh, Kerry Johnson, Dallas Sonnier, Jack Heller.
Directed by Jacob Vaughan. Screenplay, Benjamin Hayes, Jacob Vaughan. Camera (color), James Laxton; editor, David Nordstrom; music, Ted Masur; production designer, Lindsey Moran; set decorator, Robert Martin; costume designer, Anthony Tran; sound, John Maynard; creature designer, Aaron Sims; creatures and special makeup effects, Fractured FX; assistant directors, Jonathan Southard, Cory Johnson.
With: Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Stephen Root, Patrick Warburton, Mary Kay Place, Kumal Najiani, Toby Huss, Steve Zissis, Eric Charles Nielsen.