What’s it About?
An expectant couple who moves into the most haunted house in New Orleans call upon the services of the Vatican’s elite exorcism team to save them from a demonic baby.
4 out of 10
What the hell did I watch? You know a comedy is off the rails when they had to repeat a gag, not once but 3 times! Argh. Honestly, I knew way before they double dipped into that gag (That was actually funny the first time, only) that this stinker horror comedy was in deep shit. I am a big fan of Comedy Central’s “Reno 911” and even liked the feature film that inevitably made it’s way to theaters. So, when I read that Thomas Lennon (who played Jim Dangle) and Robert Ben Garant (Sgt. Travis) were making a comedy with horror overtones I got quite excited and despite this movie getting some good buzz in some circles, I just felt cheated and disappointed by the unfunny sketch based comedy that I grew to admire during “Reno 911’s” run on CC.
I laughed here and there but it was that kind of laughter that comes from one feeling very sorry and embarrassed for the movie makers. Many of my chuckles stemmed from nervous anxiety from witnessing just how lame and cringe inducing “Hell Baby” was turning out to be. As a genre satire it tries hitting the mark on some occasions but it misses by a mile. I felt like I should have laughed much more than I did. I expected some really witty, sarcastic and crude material but it felt like an overlong “MADtv” or “In Living Color” skit. I expected so much more from Garant and Lennon here but their cheap send up of demon child / horror tropes just lasts too long like those SNL skits that insufferably overstay their welcome.
Rob Corddry (Children’s Hospital) and Leslie Bibb star as Jack and Vanessa, who move into a large shamble of a house in New Orleans. The house is run down and appears to be haunted or at least that is what we think from the forced creepy angles, loud thunder and rain that the movie dumps on us. Vanessa is pregnant with twins. Very pregnant. Once they move into horror house, we get some dumb gag like a lamp with an electrical short that shocks Jack once in a while (har har har) or an annoying neighbor named F’resnel (Keegan Michael Key from Children’s Hospital as well) who turns up in every other scene to induce scares and shocks by catching the couple off guard. He goes around talking about the lamest things like how to pronounce his name and trying to translate different scary names for the house. He also has the worst accent I have ever heard. Other gags involve a shriveled up old naked woman, who is either dead or not.
I didn’t even care. After Lennon and Garant (who play Catholic Exorcists named Padrigo and Sebastian) are introduced I felt a bit of relief but it was shot down as soon as they opened their mouths during a discussion with their Vatican superior. Most of the exchanges between them, while sporting very stereotypical Italian accents, are just plain dumb and silly. The kind of things that 12 year old boys go around saying. The Priests get sent to New Orleans to investigate the pregnancy of Vanessa and the movie continues it’s nosedive of quality. More things go wrong with Vanessa’s and her pregnancy which prompts Jack to take her to a shrink. Despite one scene (Yeah, that gag I mentioned earlier), where the chain smoking Priests and 2 dumb, but funny, cops congregate and have Po’ Boys, every gag just about falls really flat.
From an Psychiatrist being gutted and nailed up on a wall to Jack being given oral sex from an old hag, it all just seems too forced and amatuer-ish. I did kind of like the 2 Police Officers (Huebel and Scheer) who, in my opinion, had better chemistry than Garant and Lennon and even Bibb and Corddry. The fellas take advantage of every possible opportunity to offend and disgust. At one point we get an excruciating and enduring scene with Vanessa’s naked sister flirting and coming on to Jack as he just stands there rubbing oil on her the whole time. Huh? I mean the bathroom did have a door, dude.
Many running gags (Like F’resnel always popping up and scaring Jack) in “Hell Baby” feel like afterthoughts and the juvenile hi-jinks and bumbling about could only appeal to pubescent and pimply boys in their early teens. I could just pciture these same 2 boys watching “Hell Baby” and drooling over boobs and cracking up at the on screen farts and burps. “Hell Baby’s” Ideas are only half executed and with the dumb jokes flying fast and furious we have no time to really catch up or appreciate any of them. Garant and Lennon seem a bit lost here. By the film’s insanely preposterous ending (yeah, Vanessa, eventually delivers the twins) with a demon baby running around ala “It’s Alive” killing folks we are either sleepy with boredom or taking random trips to the bathroom. Anything to avoid witnessing this mess.
There are indeed the often satirized conventions of horror films like evil dogs, raw meat eating, voodoo, old scary women, big haunted houses and the scary monster baby at the end. Garant and Lennon, choosing sophomoric gags and exchanges, ultimately disappoint because they go half baked into parody that should have been a knock out of the park considering that it has been done successfully in the pass. Lennon and Garant deliver not a “Hell Baby” but a half witted flick that loses momentum quickly. Too bad. This movie should have worked and it is a big missed opportunity for the pair’s directorial debut. Watch only as a rental or if the devil makes you do it.