Bad Milo!

Bad Milo!WORDS James Gracey

With its pint-sized menace, light comedic tone, buckets of splatter and irreverent humour, Jacob Vaughan’s latest oddball offering echoes the work of Frank Henenlotter, particularly Brain Damage and Basket Case, as well as other miniature-monster titles such as It’s Alive, Critters, Sewage Baby, Ghoulies, and of course, Gremlins. Its central concept — a downtrodden everyman’s identity manifesting itself as a murderous force — also calls to mind Stephen King’s Monkey Shines.

The actually rather cute titular critter, whose behaviour resembles that of an unruly toddler throwing a tantrum, is brought to life using practical puppet effects, which imbue him with a real sense of character and personality, and, most importantly for a monster movie, a degree of sympathy. Central character Duncan’s barmy therapist (Peter Stormare) persuades him to try to accept and tame Milo, and the diabolical little tyke becomes something of a metaphor for mankind’s inner demons; the dark and primitive emotions that become harmful when not acknowledged and kept in check. Vaughan makes satirical jabs at modern family issues, New Age therapy and anger management as Duncan works through his various personal anxieties and fears of parenthood by bonding with Milo (in a rather absurd and strangely touching montage) and there are plenty of humorously subversive parallels with pregnancy.

Despite the obvious toilet humour, of which there is a lot, Bad Milo surprises with a slyly witty script and unexpected sentimentality. The violence is comical and splattery, the sound effects icky. The various murder scenes are conveyed through low-level POV camera work, heightening the absurdity. Tension is built around a succession of increasingly awkward and stressful moments Duncan encounters, and there’s an almost constant sense that he will snap at any moment and Milo will emerge. A particularly uncomfortable and cringeworthy scene involves Duncan, his wife, his mother, her considerably younger lover and a sex therapist having dinner and discussing Duncan’s possible erectile dysfunction. The various moments in which Duncan is confronted by his progressively unreasonable boss (a brilliantly smarmy Patrick Warburton) and being made responsible for overseeing redundancies while operating from a makeshift office in a bathroom, also help ratchet up the tension.

Bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘a pain in the ass’, Bad Milo is a fun little slice of schlock that genuinely surprises with the amount of heart it exhibits. While the central concept obviously lends itself to crass humour and gross-out gags, the film actually unfolds as a delightfully quirky comedy — with much B-movie monster mayhem thrown into the mix — about relationships and the pressures of modern society.

Bad Milo! is available on DVD today. To win a copy, enter details below.

Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort

Wrong Turn 6WORDS Rich Wilson

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Wrong Turn series (you’re forgiven) it kicked off with an effective Hills-Have-Eyes homage a decade ago, and since then has hung a loose selection of increasingly poor pictures around three deformed cannibals who roam the woods and terrorise whoever they can. Previous instalments have seen them turn up at an asylum, a town festival, and now here at an isolated hotel that has been inherited by emotionally disturbed ex Wall Street broker Danny, who arrives for the weekend with a group of friends to see his legacy. Naturally all is not as it seems, with an odd brother-sister caretaker duo running the hotel who take far too much interest in Danny’s well-being. It seems his legacy, more than simple bricks and mortar, may well be the future of the historic cannibal clans.

While director Valeri Milev can be given at least some credit for trying to push the story in a new direction, it’s handled so ineptly that even the most casual of genre enthusiasts will be able to telegraph the twists. Intelligent plotting has never been at the forefront of horror but here logic is discarded in favour of a series of brutal kills. Wrong Turn 6 adequately ticks off the exploitation staples of nudity and gore, but there’s nothing else; no character you’ll root for, no tension to keep your interest. There’s a feature on the disc that allows you to see all the various slaughter from parts one to six of this franchise. While this is infinitely more entertaining than the main film, it shows exactly what Wrong Turn is about: good-looking teenagers getting splattered in imaginative ways. The argument can be made that that statement is descriptive of the stalk-and-slash genre for the last 40 years. Perhaps. But you’ve seen this film a hundred times before. The subtitle sums it up well; this is indeed a last resort.

Wrong Turn 6 is available on DVD tomorrow. For a chance to win a copy, please enter details below.

Dark Touch

Dark TouchWORDS Rich Wilson

If anything should emerge from this odd Irish/Swedish co-production it’s a future career for young Missy Keating, excellent as the eleven-year-old Niamh who emerges as the only survivor of an event that has killed her parents and baby brother within their country home. The police are convinced it’s the work of a gang; Niamh insists that the house itself attacked them. Taken in by family friends, she retreats into herself, and during moments of psychological stress paranormal activity happens around her; lights flicker, furniture moves, and Niamh’s foster mother falls ill, hearing persistent screams and ringing in her ears.

A fine set-up then, drawing some obvious comparisons with Carrie, and while there is a good film tucked away here it’s hidden under endless long takes of motionless rooms and meaningless conversations that do little to serve the plot. It’s obvious that director Marina de Van is going for a certain mood, an ongoing feeling of mystery, and that’s to be applauded, but all style and no substance very rarely works. This is frustrating, because there are some effective moments — the opening murders are very well done, and a scene in a children’s playground is strange and disturbing — but they are few and far between, and it’s a chore to reach a conclusion that feels out of place, almost tacked on from a different film. As the film progresses there’s a dark subtext that touches on child abuse that is handled subtly and (thankfully) without exploitation, but Dark Touch can’t decide if it wants to be a drama or a horror film, and as such emerges as neither. Keating holds the film together, but the adult roles are sketched in. Well shot and taking advantage of the bleak Irish landscape, there are no real problems, but you’ll wish de Van had chosen her genre and stuck with it; a more coherent and powerful story could have been told.

Dark Touch is available on DVD from tomorrow. To win a copy, enter details below.