(Dirs. Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon, 2013)
The genre of comedy horror movies has a very sketchy history. For every gem of spooky spoofery like Mel Brooks’ 1974 classic YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, you get decades of duds including the SCARY MOVIE series, SATURDAY THE 14TH, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CLASS REUNION, CLUB DRED, the “Chucky” franchise, and this year’s Marlon Wayons atrocity A HAUNTED HOUSE.
Now we can add Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon’s HELL BABY to the pile of dreck in the gross-out genre. Garant and Lennon, best known for the ‘90s MTV sketch show The State, and the Comedy Central series Reno 911!, co-wrote the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM movies, as well as such multiplex fodder as HERBIE: FULLY LOADED and the Jimmy Fallon vehicle TAXI.
Now, I don't want to dismiss Garant and Lennon as just high paid hacks, but it says a lot that they wrote a book together entitled “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at The Box Office and You Can Too!”
HELL BABY, Lennon’s first outing as co-director (Garant previously helmed 2007’s RENO 911! MIAMI) is their take on the demonic possession premise, i.e. it’s yet another EXORCIST parody. It concerns a expectant couple played by Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE) and Leslie Bibb (TALLADEGA NIGHTS, IRON MAN 1 & 2) who purchase an old run down house in New Orleans.
Keegan-Michael Key (MadTV, Key and Peele) pops up in the window, scaring them half to death, and tells Corddry and Bibb that their new abode is known in the neighborhood as the “house of blood,” “the place where the dead never left”, and “the spooky house down the way,” but not to worry because “nobody’s been murdered here for a long time.” It’s been 2 months and a week as a matter of fact.
That pretty much defines the level of humor present here. Scene after scene go by without a single funny line or decent gag. Key continues to appear and scare the Hell out of Corddry in a miserable running joke that he lives there in their crawl space for reasons unexplained. That seems to be the one element of modern horror films or supernatural thrillers that Garant and Lennon have seized on to satirize, that these films often just succeed in giving the audience a jolt instead of a legitimate scare. “I’m so tired of being startled!” Corddry even yells at one point, but that still doesn’t result in a legitimate laugh.
Garant and Lennon wrote themselves into this nonsense as a pair of pervy priests from the Vatican who are on hand to perform an exorcism on Bibb, now carrying the spawn of Satan supposedly.
The newly possessed Bibb, so pregnant that it looks like she is smuggling a beach boy under her clothing, has started killing people, including former “The State” cast mate Michael Ian Black as a her therapist. A few incompetent cops, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer, come to investigate, but are more interested in wolfing down a few Po’Boys at Domilise’s on Bourbon Street in another lame running gag.
Gratuitous nudity (largely provided by Riki Lindhome as Bibb’s free-spirited sister), vomit, and gallows humor galore tiresomely fill up the gaps between predictable story beats, all of it boring me to tears way before the ending.
Such a sorry enterprise made me more appreciate the high hilarity, and much better EXORCIST-spoofing that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s THIS IS THE END pulled off earlier in the summer. It’s really sad, and a bit surprising that this cast and crew couldn’t scare up anything funny in HELL BABY. I bet these these folks could do improv in their sleep that would be better than this tossed-off horror comedy.