As if giving birth wasn’t hellish enough, imagine if you were giving birth to the spawn of Satan? Sounds absolutely terrifying, right? Not if Reno 911! creators Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are writing and directing.
Bringing their own brand of slapstick, “immature” comedy, Lennon and Garant have created a horror comedy in Hell Baby that throws any real terror out the window, but it’s kind of refreshing in a way. Movies like Rapture-Palooza have tried said approach already this year, but faltered thanks to weak interpretations and lame adaptations of horror elements. Hell Baby, while focusing on comedy completely, is still able to properly poke fun at typical horror norms, succeeding not only as a consistently laugh-inducing comedy, but also as a witty horror comedy. Lennon and Garant are in proper form, and I can gladly accept their entry into my favorite genre with opened, appreciative arms.
Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) are not only two happily expecting parents, but also two new home owners in a run-down Louisiana town that Jack swears is on the upswing. Their brand new house is surely a fixer-upper, covered in gang graffiti and full of rubbish, but when their new friend/squatter/stalker F’Resnel (Keegan Michael Key) informs them of the many ominous nicknames locals bestowed upon what our new owners thought was a find, Jack begins to worry. Then when his wife Leslie starts acting stranger and stranger, he begins to worry even more. Could his wife really be possessed by the devil, brought on by the apparently evil house they’re now living in? Maybe, and that’s what our two badass exorcists are here to find out (Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant).
I would classify Hell Baby as a niche project for anyone who is familiar with Reno 911! and Human Giant, because both television shows have a gigantic influence on the comedic stylings of Lennon, Garant, Paul Scheer, and Rob Huebel. If you’re a huge fan of either series, or happen to own every single season of both shows in some capacity (like I do), then you’ll be treated to watching these unique talents in top form. Whether they’re munching down on deliciously messy shrimp po-boys, investigating grisly murders, or interrogating other characters, their signature deadpan and offbeat humor reigns supreme. Whether it’s Lennon and Garant as their chain-smoking priest badasses, almost exact copies of the MacManus brothers out of The Boondock Saints, or Scheer and Huebel playing officers Huebel and Scheer (love the nametags), they’ll have you laughing into an early grave. Beware though – if you’ve never been into their special brand of comedy, you’ll hate every single second of Hell Baby. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Hand it to Keegan Michael Key though, because you knew he’d continually be popping up throughout the entire movie, yet every time he does, you’re still laughing at Corddry’s reaction. Kumail Nanjiani also pops in for a fantastic bit part as the cable/internet guy, getting entirely too high and attempting to drive home. I won’t spoil it, but it’s this type of comedy that I respect so much. Not only is the joke hinted at, carried out, and executed, but it’s dragged out for so long, that the novelty starts to wear off, but Hell Baby sticks with the scene and only increases the hilarity as we watch Nanjiani for a super long take that had me wiping tears away for minutes. Add in Rob Corddry as his typically hilarious self, Leslie Bibb as a mommy from hell, and Riki Lindhome as a sister not afraid to show off her goods, and you’ve got a solid comedic team funny enough to raise the dead.
But not every joke lands, and I have to address that issue. While the method of dragging out jokes for extended periods of time benefited the driving scene mentioned above, I didn’t really care for some of its other uses, especially the extended po-boy eating. Sure, it’s funny to see Lennon, Garant, Huebel, and Scheer scarfing down these messilicious sandwiches and chugging beers, with as many burps and farts inserted as possible, but the novelty wears off a little quicker here. The same thing happens with Riki Lindhome’s nude scene, as we lose the novelty of giggling at her bare breasts about halfway through the gag – until Keegan Michael Key enters and saves the day.
Hell Baby is a bit of a strange bird, sophisticated enough to throw around Shakespearean references, but jam packed with enough fart, boner, and bodily fluid jokes to appease the devilish side in all of us – not that I’m complaining. For the childish gentleman/woman we’re all hiding inside our souls, both sides will be equally satiated. Sure, it doesn’t really advance the horror comedy genre in any way, but it will have you laughing from start to finish, and that’s plenty enough for me. Rock on Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, because you’ve translated comedy I’ve loved for years into a genre dear to my heart – you’re welcome to attempt more horror influenced scripts any time you’d like.