Smug Parents Get What They Deserve in Hell Baby
Smug, gentrifying white people having babies: Making fun of them never gets old. Yet relatively few movies are devoted to this highly amusing blood sport. Enter Hell Baby, written and directed by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. With this story about a beaming, expectant couple who just may be giving birth to the spawn of Satan, Garant and Lennon, both veterans of The State and Reno 911!, aren't just sending up ancient horror conventions; they're mocking every set of self-righteous parents-to-be you've ever met. Hell Baby, available on VOD and now being released in some theaters, is casual, goofy, seemingly slight. But its tiny little fangs also make some pretty deep puncture wounds.
Clueless couple Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb have just bought a big, broken-down house in an allegedly up-and-coming neighborhood that hasn't quite started coming up—in other words, they're the only white folks. An overly friendly neighbor—Keegan Michael Key, of the astonishing Key and Peele comedy duo—shows up to welcome them to the 'hood. (His name, he explains, is F'resnel: "spelled just like it sounds!") He also tells them not to worry, even though they've just bought what the neighbors call the "House of Blood." There hasn't been a murder in the house for a long time—at least, not in this calendar year.
Before long, Bibb's previously cherubic face takes on a sinister glow. She starts lighting up cigarettes and downing wine, and sweetly tries to offer her spouse a glass of paint thinner. What's going on? A pair of chain-smoking, sunglasses-wearing, broken-English-speaking exorcists (played by Garant and Lennon) shows up, straight from the Vatican; they've heard there's some demonic possession afoot and mean to investigate. But first, two loopy local cops (Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer) welcome them to town by taking them to the local strip club. Because, why not?
Written and directed by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
Opens September 6, AMC Empire 25
Available on demand
That's just the kind of freewheeling ridiculousness Hell Baby trades in. The movie is delightfully crude in places (including an instance of relay puking) and just plain silly-clever in others. Before heading out to that strip club, the cops take the priests to a local po'boy joint, where the four tuck into sandwiches too delicious for words: The best they can muster is a symphony of grunts and smacking noises. (The movie was filmed on location in New Orleans.) Corddry, with his jack-o'-lantern slice of a grin, adds flair to even the most basic slapstick gags. He's shocked, over and over again, by the lamp he's trying to repair, home-handyman-style—the current makes a bodacious "bzzt!" sound as it zaps him. Somehow, even if you think you outgrew that sort of thing in kindergarten, it gets funnier every time.
Then there's Bibb, looking radiantly naughty as she lolls around the house with a silky kimono wrapped around her dome of a belly, a glass of vino in one hand and a lit ciggie in the other. All you-know-what breaks loose when she and hubby finally welcome their bundle of joy. But until that happens, she puts the "babe" in Hell Baby.
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