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.
How come nobody told me that 2013 was the year for bad horror film spoofs? We got the putrid “A Haunted House” at the beginning of the year and then “Scary Movie V” stunk up theaters nationwide a few months ago, now comes “Hell Baby” and despite the talent involved here this one doesn’t really break the cycle of bad spoofs.
Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb play married couple Vanessa and Jack who have just moved into a dilapidated house located in a really bad neighborhood in New Orleans (They got a great deal on it). Vanessa is pregnant with twins and just about ready to burst as they move into the house and the couple plan to renovate their not so new home into a place where they can raise their children. But the house they bought comes complete with a nickname (“The House Of Blood”) that their real estate agent failed to mention to them and as soon as they enter, they not only find that multiple murders have taken place in the house but an evil entity is looking to possess Vanessa and claim one of her unborn twins as it’s own. On top of all that, they discover F’Resnel (Keegan Michael Key), who just so happens to be living in the crawlspace of the house and knows all about it’s history.
In the interim, the Vatican dispatches two of it’s best exorcists (Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben-Garant, using their best Father Guido Sarducci accents) to help remedy the situation brewing in New Orleans but they find themselves constantly distracted by Po-boy sandwiches and strippers while the situation in the house of blood just gets worse and worse. Lennon and Ben-Garant not only star in the film, they wrote and directed it as well and while it did finagle a mild chuckle out of me every so often ultimately it took what few good gags it had going for it and ran them into the ground so often that I found myself bored and more than slightly irritated because this movie just isn’t very funny, especially considering the talent involved.
“Hell Baby” takes it’s premise from films like “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby” and utilizes many of the tropes associated with them but it’s all been done before in films like “Repossessed” (1990) and the aforementioned “A Haunted House” and all of the “Scary Movie” films. When it works it’s good for a decent sized chuckle but it has the bad habit of either repeating the same gag over and over or not knowing when the joke isn’t funny anymore and sticking with it long past it’s expiration date, something that “A Haunted House” did literally throughout it’s running time.
What’s oddly entertaining about it is that it’s also a bit creepy, as if the filmmakers were hedging their bets and decided to make “Hell Baby” just a tad scary. There are a couple of decent jump scares tossed about and the ultimate appearance of the titular character offers a couple of eerie bits of fright as well. It strikes an uneasy balance between funny/scary and suffers because it doesn’t seem to know what direction to follow completely. The gore, though infrequent, is extreme and there are copious amounts of arterial spray staining everyone’s clothes but it’s still more comedy than horror and that’s where it suffers most because it just isn’t that funny to start with.
The all star comedic cast helped to ease my pain a bit. In addition to Corddry, Lennon, Ben-Garant & Bibb, “Hell Baby” features cameos from Michael Ian Black, Kumail Nanjiani, Jenny Robertson, Rob Huebel and Dave Holmes and they all do their best to make the film a bit funnier but as far as I’m concerned the movie belongs to Keegan Michael Key who absolutely kills as F’Resnel, the unwanted but ultimately helpful man living in the crawlspace of the house. Why he isn’t starring in a major motion picture comedy right now is one of life’s great mysteries but if this is his one shot at film stardom then he absolutely nailed it. He’s in nearly every scene of the movie and he’s absolutely hilarious, even when I was a little tired of his schtick he was hilarious! I should also mention actress Riki Lindhome who plays Vanessa’s sister Marjorie. She’s funny but she (And I suspect this film) is going to be remembered for the full frontal nudity she displays in her introduction scene. And it’s not just for a quick second either, she’s pretty much all out there for a few minutes and what’s even better is that she’s actually pretty funny too. Funny enough to even disregard all of her…nakedness.
What “Hell Baby” needed was a more cohesive plot to connect all of the comedic dots it has strewn about over 90 minutes. It plays more like a series of mildly funny to not funny at all sketches with nothing really connecting them all together. This is a real tragedy since it has such a fine comedic cast working hard to make it funny, but it isn’t very funny at all and if not for the brilliant performance by Key it would be almost immediately forgettable. In the end it did manage to wring a laugh or two outta me and it’s been a lousy weekend so far so something is better than nothing I suppose.
But it could’ve been so much more…
“Hell Baby” – 2 out of 5 shrouds.
Hell Baby (2013)