It’s fair to say that a filmmaker is thinking outside of the box when he or she stages a scene in which an ambulatory hemorrhoid tears a guy’s cock off with its teeth and swallows it. The striking thing, though, about Bad Milo isn’t its gore, which is occasionally considerable, but the odd earnestness with which it’s rendered. Milo, the killer hemorrhoid in question, is kind of a cutely ugly little thing when it isn’t tearing people to pieces. And the people it kills are dicks anyway.
Director Jacob Vaughan and co-writer Benjamin Hayes are on to something here: They link the much-dreaded proctologist exam with the general feelings of metaphorical castration that so many working-class drones feel as their employers ask more and more of them for less and less in return, and then the filmmakers funnel all of that bitter subtextual detritus through a parody of the platitudes offered in a traditional man’s-best-friend story. The film is perfectly timed for the age of the breathless hourly reports of a government that would prefer to close shop rather than actively combat certain increasingly unstable and Draconian practices: It’s hard to read the paper without wishing the wrath of a little butt goblin on somebody.
Bad Milo suggests a deceptively kinder, gentler vintage Larry Cohen film, and the narrative bears a potentially conscious resemblance to Cohen’s It’s Alive. Ken (Ken Marino) is a vaguely defined financial adviser who works for Phil (Patrick Warbarton), a broad caricature of the kind of asshole who routinely lines his pockets at the expense of our national economy, and gets away with it. Phil temporarily assigns Ken to human resources, which comes with a new office in the old bathroom and the plum new job of firing people while offering them amusingly absurd severance packages that include rabbit’s feet as a gesture of goodwill for their future. Ken unsurprisingly chafes at the new role, but he can’t afford to lose it, particularly with his wife, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs), on his case about having a child, a wish that reaches a perverse and premature fruition when Ken’s troublesome polyp detaches from the inner recesses of his ass and goes on a killing spree.
Bad Milo would be too obvious if it were merely a revenge-of-the-repressed horror comedy, as Vaughan refreshingly understands that Ken, a stand-in for most middle-class audiences, is every bit as culpable for his (read: the country at large’s) dire straits as his tormentors. The film is ultimately a comedy of conformity, and it’s all the more disturbing for its sheen of good-natured pluckiness, which allows the outrage to hit you on the rebound. Vaughan even corrects the problem of It’s Alive, which Robin Wood astutely addressed in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan and Beyond: The monster in that film, which stood for potential revolution, desperately wanted to conform to the standards of its masters. Milo couldn’t give less of a shit about conformity, and his ultimate taming is brought about forcefully by Ken, who elects to hobble his id with an ax rather than risk enough of himself to institute any real social change.