Hell Baby (2013)
The Devil got a baby mama.
Billed as another horror-comedy in the vein of the Scary Movie series, the Hell Baby campaign didn’t initially encourage me to seek the title out. Curiosity eventually got the better of me after Hell Baby was included as a part of Melbourne, Australia’s Monster Fest 2013 line-up, and to my surprise this cheeky parody was a hell-of-a lot better than it ought to be. From the creators of the television series Reno 911! (2003), Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon have crafted an amusing little horror-comedy flick that’s surprisingly gory, wild and not for the conservative-minded. Void of the pop-culture references or gratuitous vulgarity that dominates most other films of this variety, Hell Baby is a refreshing entry into the contemporary horror-comedy canon.
Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb star as Jack and Vanessa, a married couple who move into a dilapidated New Orleans home on the wrong side of town. While their new house is a real fixer-upper — it’ll look okay once the blood has been scrubbed away from its floors and graffiti removed from its exterior — everything seems normal, that is, until their spontaneous neighbor — an amusing come-and-go-at-will sort of guy named F’resnel (Keegan-Michael Key) — casually informs the pair of their home’s troubled past and its many nicknames, including ‘house of blood.’ At first Jack ignores F’resnel’s warning — he seems more focused on fixing an old lamp he’s found up in the attic — until his pregnant wife, Vanessa — who is baring twins — begins acting bizarrely. After being visited by a demonic-looking naked old woman and repeatedly running into a creepy dog, it becomes plainly evident to Jack that all is not well in their hair-raising new home. In order to prevent his possessed wife from giving birth to her demonic offspring — who will no doubt trigger a Hell-on-Earth type apocalypse – Jack must enlist the services of the Vatican’s elite exorcism team — an amusing Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon — to save his family, and the world, from an impending doom.
In the grand scheme of things, Hell Baby is visibly targeting a rather select and limited audience and, as a result, its cheaper production values are plainly evident throughout the picture — the splatter is silly and fun, while the creatures and make-up are comical and disgusting — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, as the sometimes intentionally goofy effects enhance the satire on display. What’s more, writer-directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon — who also co-star as a pair of zany priests — employ a subtle brand of humor throughout Hell Baby, teasing its plot and character arcs out all the way through to its madcap — although somewhat predictable — final act. Despite the fact that Hell Baby is repetitive or slow at times — the film feels as though it could work better as a 10-minute sketch — the picture is leaps and bounds ahead of its other low-brow parody peers, injecting the right amount of comic humor and bloodshed into the flick, keeping genre fans satisfied for the most part.
The vibrant cast are a mix of familiar faces who seem to be enjoying themselves on set and deliver fun performances all-round; Rob Corddry, Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), gives a mischievous tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Jack, a husband trying to make the best of his ill-fated situation, whereas Leslie Bibb, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) — complete with an impractical fake tummy — seems to be relishing her role as the pregnant newlywed possessed by an evil entity. Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, Reno 911! (2003), pretty much steal the show as Father Sebastian and Father Padrigo, a pair of ill-behaved, juvenile Vatican priests, who inject energy and flair to the entire project, generating the picture’s heartiest laughs. While Keegan Michael Key’s, Due Date (2010), character’s appearances become somewhat tiresome, he still manages to keep things fresh, generating some solid moments as the bothersome neighbor F’resnel.
The remaining players include Rob Huebel, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) and Paul Scheer, Piranha 3D (2010), as a couple of incompetent police officers who think they are playing cops-and-robbers, whilst Riki Lindhome, The Last House on the Left (2010), makes a welcome entry into the picture at the mid-way point as Vanessa’s clothes-averse sister Marjorie. However, given the film’s talented comic cast, the laughs aren’t as steady or consistent as one might expect and with the recurring nature of some of the film’s gags, its pretty evident that the cast are more comfortable working within sketch comedy — where jokes only run for a few minutes at a time — opposed to feature length humor.
While the picture’s script could have been tightened in several places and production values feel fairly amateurish, Hell Baby is an enjoyable horror-comedy flick with a pleasing cast and a handful of legitimate laughs. Even with its faults, Hell Baby is leaps and bounds ahead other contemporary horror send-ups such as the recent A Haunted House (2013), as it never resorts to spoofing other titles, instead focuses on remaining novel and fresh. Anyhow, after all is said and done, who’s up for some Po’ boys?
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Hell Baby is released through Reel Corporation Australia