Bad Milo! is a comedy about a demon grown inside a man’s rectum — and it’s good

Filmmaker Jacob Vaughan has a lot on his plate right now. While he’s currently busy reading and writing scripts anticipating his next project and doing press for his new film he’s also on the verge of getting married in Cape Cod. Having seen his new flick Bad Milo! — which makes its Alberta première at CIFF this week — I can only hope that he doesn’t get too stressed out.

That’s because Bad Milo! tells the story of Duncan a white-collar worker with a ton of stress in his life which triggers his lifelong stomach problems (the kind that have him in the bathroom for hours). As his life falls apart and stress builds up a growth develops in his bowels. It’s an anal anomaly but it soon becomes very clear — Milo a cuddly demon that’s an extension of Duncan himself has grown inside of his ass. When Duncan gets too stressed he butt-births Milo who in turn wreaks havoc on his stressors.

It’s the sort of gleefully stupid premise that might suggest some pure unadulterated Troma grossness. While there are plenty of great pretty good and terrible ass puns however the film also manages to maintain a modicum of heart throughout.

Vaughan and his co-writer Benjamin Hayes were frustrated when a colleague got funding for a mediocre horror film he’d written. Rather than wallow in their jealousy however they discussed writing a timeless tale of their own. “I was talking about the films of Cronenburg and the first Gremlins Ghoulies and Critters and some of those films” he recalls. Then it was as if divine inspiration struck. “I sort of blurted out ‘What would be really cool is a creature that comes out of a guy’s ass and then attacks whatever’s stressing him out and then goes back inside’…. Kind of instantly I could sort of see the whole movie.”

Vaughan sat on the idea (his pun not mine) for 24 hours to make sure he still liked it. In that time he was already developing the story in his mind. “It’s a simple concept and it’s a metaphor and you can kind of layer lots of stuff over it” he says. Still he had his doubts that anyone would want to fund it. “I was thinking no one’s going to take me seriously if I make a movie about an ass monster this is ridiculous.”

Fortunately some people did take him seriously — indie powerhouse team Mark and Jay Duplass. Vaughan who went to school with the brothers was working as editor on their film Cyrus and gave Mark a copy of the script to see if he’d be interested in acting in it. Mark said he was too busy with The League but that he and his brother were interested in signing on as executive producers.

Years went by and other projects took precedence but Vaughan used that time to perfect his script and was finally able to direct his film in the spring of 2012. With the Duplass brothers’ connections along with producer and early champion John Norris everything fell into place nicely. Bad Milo! boasts a stacked cast of comedic greats including The State ’s Ken Marino Community ’s Gillian Jacobs much-hyped standup and writer Kumail Nanjiani Fargo ’s Peter Stormare the legendary Stephen Root and a scene-stealing performance from Toby Huss.

Of course the movie wouldn’t work without a believable Milo character and Vaughan struck gold via creature designer Aaron Sims. Deciding early on that Milo had to be a puppet rather than a CGI character Vaughan approached Sims (who’s worked on countless blockbusters including the Planet of the Apes reboot The Golden Compass and Spielberg’s AI ) to render a drawing of the character.

“I gave him some reference images like images of colonoscopies” Vaughan says. “I wanted Milo’s skin to look and feel like the inside lining of your intestines. Slimy yellowish but reddish. That was the disgusting part…. The cute part would be cute but the ferocious part would be a little scary and one eye would be smaller than the other which makes him cute.” Sims instantly perfected the character coming up with one angry rendering and another cuddly one and Milo was born.

Now all that’s left is for the film to become the sort of runaway creature feature success story that Gremlins and E.T. were so that we can all go to sleep with colon-coloured Milo teddy bears every night. “I think if there’s a legitimate business opportunity for that meaning the film does really well then that could happen and that would be a dream come true” Vaughan says.