Hell Baby: Sundance Review
"Reno 911!" creators Robert Ben Garant’s and Thomas Lennon’s joint feature debut co-stars Leslie Bibb and Rob Corddry.
PARK CITY – Awkwardly mashing together thematic elements from Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist among other classics, studio scribes and “Reno 911!” directors Robert Ben Garant’s and Thomas Lennon’s horror spoof Hell Baby noticeably reverses their previous momentum, delivering rapidly diminishing returns on its derivative premise. Late-night tube addicts will benefit most from the movie’s almost certain consignment to ancillary.
Real estate speculators and expectant parents Jack (Rob Corddry) and Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) move into a house reputed to be the site of several murders on the bad side of New Orleans, planning to renovate and sell the home in short order. Naturally, strange events begin transpiring almost immediately, as Vanessa’s personality begins to shift and she starts swearing, smoking and drinking liberally, despite her advanced state of pregnancy.
Local resident F’resnel (Keegan Michael Key), who happens to live uninvited in the couple’s basement, attributes the weird events to the home’s notorious history, a viewpoint apparently shared at the Vatican, where a concerned cleric dispatches two expert exorcists (Garant and Lennon) to check out the New Orleans case. Things go from bad to worse as the padres investigate whether Vanessa has become the victim of demonic possession, but they’re such supreme bunglers that the likelihood they’ll be able to intervene in time appears slim.
Such lighthearted parody doesn’t demand much in the way of acting chops and although Corddry and Bibb are good sports about it, Garant and Lennon’ script, with its insistence on constantly repeating the same gags, rapidly wears thin. Production quality is a notch above low-budget, particularly the suitably gory special effects.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Park City at Midnight
Production companies: Darko Entertainment, Principato-Young Entertainment
Cast: Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan Michael Key, Riki Lindhome, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon
Directors-writers: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon
Producers: Sean McKittrick, Jeff Culotta, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon
Executive Producers: Edward H. Hamm, Jr., John D. Lynch, David Lincoln
Director of photography: Charles Papert
Production designer: Nate Jones
Costume designer: Shauna Leone
Music: Michael Farrell
Editor: Kevin Oeser
No rating, 98 minutes