Ah, horror comedy, you unreliable bitch, you. There are some horror comedies (or comedy horror’s) that have been done successfully in the past. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Shaun of the Dead, The ‘Burbs and Young Frankenstein to name a few, and there have been some that flopped harder than a flaccid palm tree made of soggy meat (don’t ask me where that analogy came from because I just don’t know). Films like A Haunted House, Scary Movie 4, Stan Helsing and a variety of others have, metaphorically, shit the bed. It isn’t the easiest thing to pull off, a comedy that still presents a horror film beneath its humour, but I’m always up for trying them out because when they work, they really work.
Hell Baby is a “comedy horror”, or at least it tries to be. Directed and written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911), it is a film that is much more horror spoof than it is comedy horror. Something for fans of Scary Movie and titles like it, this film is made for laughs, plain and simple.
A couple, Jack and Vanessa, are expecting their first child. They move into a house in New Orleans that turns out to be “the most haunted house” in the area. They seek the help of an exorcist team from the Vatican to help them get rid of a demonic baby that lurks in their home. That’s the jist of it, and it doesn’t go any deeper. There are no twists and turns, so don’t expect a film experience that keeps you on your toes.
While some films in this genre do their best to create a horror atmosphere and add the comedy to it in some way, this film does things differently, and I don’t mean that as a positive. It’s a spoofy and slapstick “comedy” movie that thinks it’s winking at the viewer for its 90 minute running time. There are scenes we’ve seen before, like a ghost/demon thing performing sexual favours on an unsuspecting Rob Corddry, who, when he finds out, bludgeons said monster with a fire extinguisher. This should give you an idea of what sort of humour we are dealing with here. It’s farce, it’s silly, and it didn’t really entice a laugh from me. The idea of a demon baby in a horror comedy setting was appealing to me, but it is trying so hard to get laughs that it almost feels desperate and awkward. The characters are obnoxious and one dimensional, and the jokes are almost like someone found a soiled script that had been thrown away by someone at Saturday Night Live because it was worse than their usual nonsense.
The cast, featuring the likes of Corddry, Leslie Bibb, David Wain and Keegan-Michael Key, throw themselves into their roles with gusto, but the writing is sophomoric and tedious, and the whole thing just feels like someone took a bunch of flat and already-done concepts and ideas and decided to run with them instead of attempting to create something original and, well, funny. There isn’t a single element of tension or horror here, it isn’t scary, but it isn’t funny either. It’s a shame, but I did find myself clutching at straws to find anything good to say about this film. When there are so many good films in the genre of comedy horror already out there, and even some mediocre ones that are a whole lot better than this, there is just no reason for you to go and check this film out. Bland, frustratingly shallow and about as funny as a fart while you’re enjoying a fancy meal, Hell Baby made me feel like hiring an exorcist to come and force out the demon spawn that had just caused my television to spew such inadequate and awful junk at me.
Hell Baby is available to watch, now, on Netflix (UK)