Hell Baby (2013) poster

Hell Baby (2013)


USA. 2013.


Directors/Screenplay – Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon, Producers – Jeff Culotta, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Sean McKittrick, Peter Principato & Paul Young, Photography – Charles Papert, Music – Michael Farrell, Visual Effects – Gradient Effects, LLC (Supervisor – Thomas Tannenberger), Special Effects Supervisor – Rip Obedralski, Production Design – Nate Jones. Production Company – Darko Entertainment/Principato-Young Entertainment.


Rob Corddry (Jack Watson), Leslie Bibb (Vanessa Watson), Keegan-Michael Key (F’resnel), Paul Scheer (Officer Ron), Ron Huebel (Officer Mickey), Robert Ben Garant (Father Sebastian), Thomas Lennon (Father Padrigo), Alex Berg (Elaine Nussbaum/Cheerful Guy), Riki Lindhome (Marjorie), Michael Ian Black (Dr. Marshall), David Pasquesi (Cardinal Vicente)


Jack Watson and his pregnant wife Vanessa purchase a house in a poor suburb of New Orleans that is going cheaply. They then learn from F’resnel, who lives in the crawlspace of the house, that it has the nickname ‘The House of Blood’. They soon experience spooky happenings. Jack finds Vanessa talking in a deep voice and believes she is possessed. He finds an old lady in his bed and kills her – they agree to bury the body but then the old woman turns up alive again. Two priests despatched by The Vatican come to the house to exorcise Vanessa and prevent her giving birth to a Devil Baby.

Hell Baby was a directorial outing for Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Around the time that Hell Baby was made, they were the creators, producers and actors on tv’s hit comedy Reno 911 (2003- ). Both had worked together since the 1990s, principally in comedy. Garant had previously directed and both wrote Balls of Fury (2007). Aside from that, the two had worked as a writing team with scripts for Taxi (2004), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), The Pacifier (2005), Night at the Museum (2006), Jessabelle (2014), Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2004), The Veil (2016) and Baywatch (2017). Both have also played a number of acting role, Lennon more so, having appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Hancock (2008), 17 Again (2009), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), Monster Trucks (2016), tv’s Santa Clarita Diet (2017-9) and as Mr Mxyzptlk in tv’s Supergirl (2014-21), along with assorted voice animation work.

Hell Baby pokes fun at genre cliches – in particular the haunted house film, along with Possession and Exorcism cliches. There’s a parody of Diabolic Pregnancy cliches – with the birth occurring at the same time as the exorcism is being conducted! There’s scenes with an old lady who turns up in Rob Corddry’s bed and sucks his dick and then won’t stay dead, which seems to be a parody of the shower scene in The Shining (1980). Garant and Lennon assemble these parodies better than say the similar Scary Movie 2 (2001) but the plot that holds everything together is loose, more assembled around the various gags than any dramatic structure.

Rob Corddry and pregnant wife Leslie Bibb in Hell Baby (2013)
Rob Corddry and pregnant wife Leslie Bibb survey their new home

Hell Baby feels like a film made by people who haven’t directed comedy before – except that in the case of Garant and Lennon that simply isn’t true. So I am stuck with trying to figure out why Hell Baby doesn’t work. It often feels like they pointed the camera at actors and gave them a situation to improvise off. Much of the film has the feel of being scenes where people frenetically trying to drum something funny out of a situation they have been handed – the incident with the visit to the psychiatrist who has a boner through his bicycle shorts, the cops and priests (played by Garant and Lennon) going to the Po’Boy restaurant. In particular the scenes with the old woman and the cops insisting that Rob Corddry give her a hug just go on and on and on that you want to yell at someone to cut. There’s a similar scene where the cops produce crime scene photos as the group are eating dinner and everyone takes turns throwing up. It feels like amateur hour comedy that keeps on going as everyone is straining to try and be funny in the hope that something will eventually work.

Rob Corddry was on the rise at the time following a breakout role in Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). Here he is cast playing a regular guy – with the natural energy he has, you feel like he should be inhabiting something more like the role played by Keegan-Michael Key.

Trailer here

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