Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. In a weird way this SXSW has felt a lot like Fantastic Fest, at least in terms of my schedule. With Evil Dead being the big opening night film and my schedule randomly putting most of the midnight films in the first half of my fest I've seen a whole lot of genre this year.
Originally I was going to be seeing Milo later on in the festival, but I had to move stuff around in order to do some interviews with Gillian Jacobs and Ken Marino. That means I don't get to see the documentary about John Milius until the end of the fest and the snowball effect of that means I have to catch David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche whenever it comes out. Shit happens. I'm not complaining. Milo's a fun flick and I got sit within 3 feet of Gillian Jacobs for 10 minutes, so I'll somehow manage.
Milo's the easiest movie in the world to describe: Ken Marino has a demon that lives in his ass that emerges and kills people when he gets mad or stressed. Bruce Banner has the Hulk, Ken has Milo and while I'm sure Bruce's transformation isn't the most pleasant thing in the world at least he doesn't have to birth the Hulk out his asshole every time he hulks out.
If you needed any reassurance that this very silly premise is fully understood by the filmmakers, director Jacob Vaughan cast Peter Stormare as a new agey therapist who also happens to have just the right book to explain the origins of Ken's intestine demon. They get it, they know what movie they're making and as a result they make a really silly, gross and fun one.
Milo feels a whole lot like those sleazy but fun horror comedies of the late '80s and early '90s. Charles Band doesn't make films like this anymore, sadly, but if this had come out 20 years ago it would have fit right there with his best stuff.
Vaughan very smartly cast a bunch of really funny people in the film, which really tips the scales in terms of the movie working. Ken Marino plays his character very straight, which is important when that character has to bend over and squeeze out a toddler-sized demon every 10 minutes or so. Also in the cast are Gillian Jacobs (Community), Patrick Warburton, the aforementioned Stormare, Mary Kay Place (as Ken's mother), Kumail Nanjiani (as Ken's younger-than-he-is new stepfather) and the great Stephen Root as Ken's bat-shit crazy biological father. When you have a cast like that you know the comedy is gonna work and it does.
it's easy to categorize Milo as a horror-comedy, but it's really a comedy-comedy. Sure, the ass-demon eats people and there's a ton of blood, but Vaughan never really tries to make the movie scary. At all. Instead he aims for the absurd at every opportunity. He and fellow screenwriter Benjamin Hayes make sure to always find the line and take a giant step over it and that's the focus of the film, not trying to creep you out one moment and make you laugh the next.
I love the ensemble here, but the one cast member they couldn’t afford to miss the mark on is the title character and I’m happy to report that little Milo is a wholly practical, thoughtfully designed puppet. He’s cheap, let’s not ignore that. He’s rubbery and a bit stiff in his movements, but the trick to getting the audience to ignore all that is to give the creature a real personality and the folks behind Milo have that totally covered.
Milo alternates between adorably cute and razor-mouthed monster, much in the same way those little guys in Galaxy Quest could go from one to the other. He also has little baby-talk gibberish mumblings ala Gizmo that makes him ridiculously adorable desptire his fleshy skin color, sharp teeth and black shark’s eyes.
Jacobs is a bit underused and the film has some definitive peaks and valleys, but I never found it dull or draggy. Milo could have been unbearable in lesser hands, but thanks to a talented and very funny cast, solid direction and some cheap, but well done puppet work the end result is something to behold. A little crazy, a little goofy, but a real fun time.