|release date (VOD, limited)||July 25 2013|
|director||Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant|
|writer||Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant|
|starring||Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Riki Lindhome, Keegan-Michael Key|
|trailer 1||Trailer #1|
|trailer 2||Trailer #2|
Do any of you have that friend (or know of that person) who upon hearing a fairly funny joke has to turn to their friend on the left, repeat the joke, say the punchline, cackle hysterically, and then immediately turn to their friend on the right and do the exact same thing again? Yeah, that’s Hell Baby in a nutshell.
A horror comedy in the same vein as Scary Movie, Hell Baby focuses almost entirely upon the comedy element while being rooted in a horror atmosphere. The story centers around happy couple Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) as they move into their new home (which bears as many evil names as possible). Heavily pregnant Vanessa deals with some demonic forces possessing her and all sorts of whacky, spooky things begin occurring, such as boxes stacking themselves, a strange phantom dog prowling around their yard, and a frisky 90-year old woman who is in desperate need of clothing.
The film elicits some very strong laughs but then falls victim to immediately pummeling the joke into the ground, ruining it entirely. What was funny quickly descends into annoying and never returns, the cast trying way too hard to make each scene as funny as possible but instead making it pathetic.
Let me give you an example, shall I? When Vanessa gives birth to her demon baby (don’t worry, I didn’t spoil anything by stating this), what ensues is the longest game of hot potato I’ve ever seen in a movie. And just when you think it’s over (after a painfully long time), it starts all over again.
Another example: Keegan Michael Key’s character F’Resnel keeps on popping up out of nowhere, startling and terrifying Jack. While funny the first time and perhaps the second it is most certainly not funny the fourth or fifth time.
The film is technically well put with some interesting lighting and some fun set designs. However nothing stands out as anything particularly unique or engaging. The music is also entirely forgettable.
Sitting in a theater and watching this was actually a painful experience. More than once…scratch that. More than ten times I was aching to pull out my cellphone to check the time (the only thing stopping me is the thought of pulling out my cellphone in a movie theater). Other times I was rolling my eyes and dropping my head back, wishing that the movie was over. People between the ages of 12 and 18 will find this great as will anyone who is more than three beers into the night. If you are not in that age group or that situation you should avoid this movie and find a better comedy/horror.
It’s been hard to wrap my head around the audience reaction to Hell Baby, which had a bunch of Salt Lake City locals braying with laughter at a recent Sundance screening as I sat there in stoic silence. Intermittently raunchy and repetitive, the horror-comedy boasts a hip cast of talented comedians from a handful of edgy TV shows –– Children’s Hospital, The League, STSF:ST:SUV, Reno 911! Hell, they even managed to land half of Key and Peele. But hip edginess doesn’t come easy to Hell Baby, and at times the cast strains so hard for comedy it’s like watching a woman going through a breech birth. Willing to push the envelope only so far before backing down, it’s a movie that always seems to be trying harder than it actually is. If an entry in the Scary Movie franchise had well-timed intercourse with your average Sundance film, Hell Baby would be the result.
Although its “sketch show” plot can be defined as “loose” at best, Hell Baby’s central storyline belongs to Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb, a pair of soon-to-be parents who have moved into a busted-down house with a questionable history. Corddry attempts to quell his wife’s concerns by comparing their gang-tagged home with the works of street artist Banksy, but it doesn’t take long before the pregnant Bibb is possessed by an unseen force.
Meanwhile, a pair of Spanish priests (writers/directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, both from Reno 911!) are dispatched to investigate the household, as are a pair of sarcastic cops (Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel). Keegan Michael Key (Key and Peele) shows up as a local squatter who frightens random characters by suddenly appearing in frame, an endlessly repeated gag that stops being funny inside of about eight minutes. Michael Ian Black drops by for a one-joke scene as a therapist wearing too-snug, dong-defining bicycle shorts. And Riki Lindhome, of Last House on the Left and “Garfunkel and Oates” fame, spends about a half hour oiling up her naked body in a dialogue exchange with Corddry that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing.
And frankly, the vast majority of Hell Baby goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. Which wouldn’t be an issue if every member of the expansive cast wasn’t straining so hard for laughs. And perhaps that’s the problem. In trying so desperately to shoehorn this eclectic herd of comedians into one production, filmmakers Garant and Lennon forgot they were making an actual movie and not a special Halloween episode of Mad TV. Readers of B-D may feel the movie is partially redeemed by its titular birth scene, a gore-drenched affair with its roots firmly planted in The Evil Dead. But even with all the funny face-splattering, Hell Baby never fully recovers. It simply tries too hard to accomplish so little.