William Goss September 6, 2013
This review was originally published on January 28, 2013 as part of Film.com’s coverage of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Arriving right in between the dire likes of “A Haunted House” and “Scary Movie V,” Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon’s “Hell Baby” is far from a transcendent example of the modern horror spoof; with that said, it does manage more sporadic laughs than the former and (in all likelihood) the latter.
To their credit, Garant and Lennon don’t set their sights on any one particular film or franchise, choosing instead to lampoon the overall demon-possession genre. Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) move into a New Orleans fixer-upper, and before you can say “scene of multiple murders,” Vanessa — eight months pregnant with twins — becomes pretty evidently possessed by a supernatural presence, much to Jack’s annoyance.
The nature of gags run the gamut from knowing (after a few too many surprises, Jack yells out, “I am so sick of being startled!”) to absurd (a lurid flashback involving well-endowed nurses sucking out bullets). Given Garant and Lennon’s background on “The State” and “Reno 911,” their scattershot approach as filmmakers isn’t especially surprising; for every oddly specific Shakespeare reference or detour to the local po-boy joint, there’s an ongoing parade of puke and an awful rubber suit with which to contend.
The writer/directors also appear as a pair of priests sent to help the beleaguered couple, armed with chain-smoking and commendably exaggerated Italian accents, while fellow sketch comedy vets Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Riki Lindhome and Michael Ian Black round out the ranks. All are good sports, enabling Corddry’s perpetual state of exasperation and confirming that Bibb is something of the odd girl out, on par with Olivia Munn’s token babe involvement with the Broken Lizard crew. (Munn’s admittedly come to prove her own chops on HBO’s “The Newsroom.”) Bibb is game for all manner of supernatural shenanigans, to be sure, but fails to ever demonstrate much in terms of innate comedic talent.
That leaves, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Keegan-Michael Key of TV’s “Key & Peele” as F’resnel (or something like it — the spelling itself being an open joke). Whether popping up at perfectly inopportune times as Jack and Vanessa’s privacy-shirking neighbor or putting a hilarious delivery on an otherwise mediocre bit, Key proves time and again to be the film’s secret weapon, single-handedly elevating it from ideal Comedy Central fodder for a lazy afternoon to an honest-to-goodness Redbox recommendation. Yeah, we said it.
SCORE: 6.1 / 10
Categories: ReviewsTags: 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Hell baby, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie bibb, Michael ian black, Movie review, Paul scheer, Riki lindhome, Rob corddry, Rob huebel, Robert ben garant, Sundance, Sundance 2013, Thomas lennon