Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hell Baby

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Hell Baby (2013)

A husband and extremely pregnant wife (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb) move into a dilapidated house in New Orleans, and strange things start happening immediately. Boxes move around, they get repeatedly startled by their friendly neighbour who apparently lives in their crawlspace (Keegan-Michael Key), there's an oversexed senile old lady in there, and there's a scary Rottweiler which might be a ghost, and also the house is haunted, and also the wife is possessed, and also one of their unborn twin babies might be a demon.

Meanwhile, a couple of priests from the Vatican (Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant) arrive to assist local police officers (Paul Scheer and Ron Huebel) deal with all the above ghostly doings.

The movie is a parody of The Exorcist, The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, and all the others. As far as horror parodies go, this is a step or two up from the seemingly endless Scary Movie franchise, although it is approximately as crass and puerile.

The characters are fairly engaging and self-aware, allowing them to mock the standard horror movie tropes. Like one of the running jokes in the movie is that there's a jump scare pretty much every time Keegan-Michael Key shows up. Rob Corddry's character reacts to things exactly as a real person would which is nice. The acting is pretty solid, and there are some amusing lines of dialogue, like "the Devil is real, and he's a dick".

It's intentionally silly, but at times it feels like it's trying way too hard. This is especially true of anything involving the priest characters. Like, okay, they're Catholic priests but they smoke and swear and like to go to strip clubs. Hilarious. There's also a big long scene relating the backstory of the priests which is totally irrelevant to the plot and not funny enough to be excused. I get that a lot of scenes probably seemed really funny during writing but the material could have been tightened up a lot more.

Leslie Bibb's character goes from normal to full tilt possessed in about ten minutes which skips over some character development I would have liked to see. The whole movie could have benefited from focusing more exclusively on the husband-wife situation rather than half-assedly jumping over to the priests and cops every now and then.

The final scene where they do the Exorcist thing and Leslie Bibb finally gives birth to the twins, one of which is normal and one of which is the titular Hell Baby, followed by the characters playing baby catch like something out of a Peter Jackson feels like it goes on for about twenty minutes. I didn't think that it was possible to make a scene with grown men beating up a newborn drag like a motherfucker, but they did. Which is disappointing, you know, coz like the whole movie was leading up to that, despite the multitude of unrelated side plots, that should have been the crude crescendo of the movie but instead it just felt tiresome. Probably because of all the unrelated side plots.

Ultimately, and this is a personal taste thing, I prefer horror comedies to be just funny horror stories rather than parodies of a handful of other movies. I think it's because it's hard, if not impossible, to make a movie with a cohesive plot out of lampooned scenes from other movies. Instead you just get a string of tenuously related events where you can go "oh I get the reference in that, ha ha" without the satisfaction of any of the events having any impact.

That's why the end of the movie seemed so tedious, because even though the movie was leading up to that, it wasn't really leading up to that, it was just slapping more or less unrelated jokes together.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong. If this style of comedy wasn't popular then they wouldn't keep making them so fuck me right. If lowbrow horror parodies are you're thing, you'll probably get a kick out of this movie because to be fair, it isn't terrible. Some of the jokes were a little weak and overall this style of movie isn't to my taste, but if that's what you like, knock yourself out.

Written and Directed by: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon.  Starring: Rob Coddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan-Michael Key, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Riki Lindhome.

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