Title: Hell Baby

Millennium Entertainment

Director: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

Screenwriter: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

Cast: Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Michael Ian Black, Keegan-Michael Key, Ricki Lindhome, Sierra

Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 7/29/13

Opens: September 6, 2013

Whatever “possessed” writer-directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon to call their movie a comedy? Granted: horror, like life, is easy: comedy is hard. But “Hell Baby” is filled with improvisations and scripted dialogue that could be called only forced ribaldry at best, and the horror element is derivative of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining.” One of the virtues of “Rosemary’s Baby” is that the title figure remains inconspicuous, whereas the spawn of the expectant Vanessa (Leslie Bibb), married to Jack (Rob Corddry), is a literally in-your-face demon.

The unlucky couple had just moved into a ramshackle house in New Orleans expecting to renovate and flip it, even though Vanessa, who looks like she’s in her eleventh month of pregnancy, would be loath to part with the obviously haunted domicile. The usual spooks present themselves to the court of this 93-minute turkey (or has it gone on for eleven months?): a ninety-one year old Mrs. Nussbam, looking like a creature from the opening lines of “Macbeth” pops up now and then despite being buried by Jack, who had presumably killed her. Vanessa’s sister Marjorie (Riki Lindhome) turns up in the shower, uninvited, completely in the buff for an extended sequence. At least she’s got the body to show off, though Jack, still wondering how she fits into the picture remains with a towel around his waist even though Marjorie notes that he’d been circumcised. Two keystone style cops make an appearance to inquire about the missing Mrs. Nussbaum, a ghost dog (played by Sierra), stares into the house from outside but is scared away via a spell from Vanessa whose husband asks her where she learned to speak Bullmastiff (never mind that Sierra is a Rottweiler).

In a grossout movie that features overly lengthy scenes, only Keegan-Michael Key, known for Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele”), has anything amusing to say. Though seemingly normal, he scares the hell out of Jack each time he invites himself into the household from the unlocked window.

Jack manages to hold onto his sanity, thereby becoming the only character in the piece that anyone in the audience can identify with. To create this unfunny mess, Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, who enjoy the patronage of Comedy Central fans of “Reno 911!” must have drunk some of the paint thinner that the possessed Vanessa imbibes despite her pregnancy.

Rated R. 98 minutes © 2013 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-

Acting – C

Technical – C-

Overall – C-

hell baby review

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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