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A JOHN WATERS RETROSPECTIVE, PART THREE

Previously on 366 Weird Movies…

A John Waters Retrospective, Part 1

A John Waters Retrospective, Part 2

And now, today’s feature presentation…

After a two-year hiatus, returned to the big screen with Cry-Baby (1990), a nostalgic follow-up to Hairspray (1988). Although commercially a flop, Cry-Baby was mostly a critical success and did better overseas. Eventually, like Hairspray, Cry-Baby spawned a Broadway musical. Its mix of camp, sweet-toothed cynicism, and 50s nostalgia are ripe for choreographic treatment, and “Cry-Baby, The Musical” has seen two revivals. It seems inevitable that a big screen adaptation is not far off.

1994’s Serial Mom was a 13-million dollar budgeted cousin to 1974’s $25,000 Female Trouble (probably Waters’ best film). Like Cry-Baby, and every post-Hairspray Waters’ film, Serial Mom lost money, barely making back half of its cost. Like , Waters hones in on the white picket fence, not-so-discreet charm of the American bourgeoisie. His recipe calls for equal parts exploitation, celebrity crime spree, and satire on the hypocrisy of American etiquette, all on a Martha Stewart endcap display, dripping with battery acid.

In Serial Mom, Waters shifts the focus of horror away from doublewide trailers and into suburbia. Naturally, that change of palette has been criticized for taking away Waters’ edge, but this is hardly the case. Waters presents Serial Mom in a visually acceptable package, but even mainstream audiences knew it to be a facade, which is why it lost money. It is easy for middle class WASPS to jeer at and mantle an attitude of superiority towards low income Baltimore Catholic trailer trash. Hell, that approach was the appeal that filled aisle seats in all those midnight showings and made Waters a cult icon. However, nothing is more unnerving than a mirror, which Waters brandishes to his audience, and nothing is resisted like the reflection of hypocrisy.

Still from Serial Mom (1994)Star Kathleen Turner is a virtuoso as Betty in this quintessential parody of suburban family values. She should have received an Oscar for her performance as a matriarchal Norman Bates (could Norman have slaughtered Philistines so creatively with a leg of lamb, to the song ‘Tomorrow’? ) Alas, she was not even nominated in a year of woefully lame Academy choices. This ranks as one of her best performances, and the best acting in any Waters film.  A toe-licking dog (choregraphed to a VHS scene from Annie), a son masturbating to , a noisy infant doused in snot, some swooning to Barry Continue reading A JOHN WATERS RETROSPECTIVE, PART THREE

CAPSULE: BAD MILO (2013)

DIRECTED BY: Jacob Vaughan

FEATURING: , , Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root, Patrick Warburton, , Toby Huss

PLOT: An accountant finds that his searing intestinal pains come from a monster that lives in his lower digestive tract, who emerges from his bowels to kill whatever is causing him undue stress in his life.

Still from Bad Milo (2013)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Playing like a cross between a  splatter goof and The Brood remade as a comedy, Milo has minor midnight movie aspirations, but lacks the gut impact to become one of the top weird movies of all time.

COMMENTS: For a movie about a demon that lives in an accountant’s colon and emerges to slay his enemies, Bad Milo isn’t nearly as much of an exercise in bad taste as you might think. There’s only one scene of spraying fecal matter, and it’s rather light, almost a mist. There’s more blood than poop, but Milo isn’t a gorefest by horror movie standards, either. The movie’s grossest moments are all left up to your imagination, suggested only by Ken Marino’s labored grunts. Whether this modicum of restraint constitutes a relief or a disappointment is up to you, but the odd fact is that Milo the movie ends as surprisingly good-natured as Milo the killer puppet is disarmingly cute. Ray Romano-lookalike Marino plays accountant Duncan as a put-upon pushover who gradually grows a pair when forced to defend his family from his own intestinal impulses. Marino is ably supported by a familiar cast of character actors whose presence give the movie a polished and professional feel (again, whether “polished and professional” is what you want from your butt-monster movie may be a matter of personal taste). Peter Stormare, as a disheveled, New Age-y hypnotherapist (“witch doctor!,” accuses his parrot) is the movie’s quirkiest creation. Mary Kay Place amuses as Duncan’s cradle-robbing mom who gives her son T.M.I. about her S&M lifestyle. Stephen Root plays a pothead whose laid back attitude proves a constant struggle for him, while Patrick Warburton proves a natural as a genially sociopathic middle manager. For the most part, the script’s humor emerges easily from the absurd premise and capable performances, and rarely feels strained.

Milo‘s unexpectedly layered psychology involves learning to cope with buried neuroses rather than letting them become impacted, paternal abandonment issues, and, most importantly, a fear of parenthood angle. Duncan may explicitly deny that the monster up his butt is a metaphor, but the movie begs to differ. And that very fact may hurt Milo with its target audience: by being more thoughtful and probing than the usual movie about butt-monsters, it passes up a lot of scatological opportunities, which may explain why it failed to wow the midnight movie crowds. This is a case where the movie might benefit from a less tasteful approach.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…its creators usually know when to let their inherently insane ideas speak for themselves.”–Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com (contemporaneous)