Review

Talented cast can't scare up laughs in comedy horror spoof "Hell Baby"

CorrespondentSeptember 5, 2013 

From left, Jack played by Rob Corddry, F’Resnel played by Keegan-Michael Key and Vanessa played by Leslie Bibb in the horror-comedy "Hell Baby.”

MILLENIUM ENTERTAINMENT — MILLENIUM ENTERTAINMENT

  • Hell Baby

    D+ Cast: Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan-Michael Key, Michael Ian Black

    Directors: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

    Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

    •  R (for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity)

    Theaters

    Raleigh: Grande.

The genre of comedy horror movies has a very uneven 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,” “Club Dred,” the “Chucky” franchise and this year’s Marlon Wayons atrocity, “A Haunted House.”

Now we can add “Hell Baby” to the pile of dreck in the genre.

“Hell Baby,” Thomas Lennon’s first outing as co-director (Robert Ben Garant previously helmed 2007’s “Reno 911! Miami”) is a take on the demonic possession premise, i.e., it’s yet another “Exorcist” parody. It follows an expectant couple, played by Rob Corddry (“The Daily Show,” “Hot Tub Time Machine”) and Leslie Bibb (“Talladega Nights,” “Iron Man”), who purchase an old, rundown house in New Orleans.

In an early scene, 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 two months and a week, as a matter of fact.

That pretty much defines the level of humor here. Scene after scene goes by without a single funny line or decent gag. Key continues to appear and scare Corddry as part of a miserable running joke that has him living in Corddry’s crawlspace for reasons unexplained.

In fact, that seems to be the one element of modern horror films 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 yells at one point, but that still doesn’t result in a legitimate laugh.

Garant and Lennon also wrote themselves into this nonsense as a pair of creepy priests from the Vatican who arrive to perform an exorcism on Bibb, who now carries the spawn of Satan.

The newly possessed Bibb, so pregnant that it looks like she is smuggling a beach ball under her clothing, has by now started killing people, including former “The State” cast mate Michael Ian Black, who plays her therapist.

Gratuitous nudity (largely provided by Riki Lindhome as Bibb’s free-spirited sister), vomit and gallows humor galore tiresomely fill the gaps between predictable story beats – all of it boring.

Such a sorry enterprise will make movie fans better appreciate the much better “Exorcist”-spoofing in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s “This Is the End” from earlier in the summer.

It’s actually sad that this cast – who could probably do improv in their sleep that would be better than what you get in this tossed-off horror comedy – couldn’t scare up anything funny in “Hell Baby.”

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service