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Hell Baby (Blu-ray Review)

hell baby whysoblu cover-001After reviewing fun the horror-comedies Big Ass Spider! and Bad Milo, it seemed like I was on a pretty good streak as far as this genre was concerned.  I really wish I could have liked Hell Baby more.  Some of the creators of The State and Reno 911 have gotten together to make a horror comedy about demonic possession in the vein of films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, among others.  At its best the film plays as its own entry in the horror-comedy genre, rather than a goofy parody film, but at its worst, the film leans to heavily on jokes that may have played better in a script and on set than they eventually did in theatrical form.  Hell Baby features plenty of comedic actors that I enjoy, but the film just does not nail the laughs as consistently as one would hope.

Film:

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Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb star as Jack and Vanessa, an expecting couple that move to a fixer-upper house in New Orleans.  The problem is this is the biggest haunted house around, known as “House of Blood.”  Lots of strange things begin to occur, as Vanessa starts to act very strange, with plenty of other strange characters arriving on the scene as well, with the intent of basically ridding the house of this evil in the film’s exorcism climax, regardless of how clued in they are to the ridiculous events taking place.

The film co-stars Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel as two very dumb cops; Riki Lindhome as Majorie, Vanessa’s new-age, hippie sister; the film’s writer/director duo Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant as two buddy cop-like priests; Keegan-Michael Key as F’resnel, the next-door neighbor; and Kumail Nanjiani as the cable guy.  There are other comedians in this film as well, but you get an idea that this was a film made up of a lot of funny people that know each other.

Hell Baby certainly has some high points, with Keegan-Michael Key in particular, really standing out as the best source of this film’s humor, but there are lots of missed opportunities as well.  It is comedy, so a lot of this is subjective, but it seems pretty clear to me what parts work really well and which ones feel a bit labored or like dead ends for greater comedy.  It is unfortunate, as there is good material to mine in this sort of genre, but it did not end up adding up to a whole lot.

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The effort is certainly there.  The film has a decent premise and a game cast of actors.  Various setups are there and the running gags bring some fun aspects to the film’s humor, but Hell Baby never entirely pulls off the best punch-lines in a majority of its key scenes.  It has some promising ideas, such as the random incorporation of Shakespeare references, the concept of priests that have come out of an 80s action movie, and maybe the best incorporation of scenes focused around eating po’boys that I have ever seen, but then you have too much repetition of gross-out scenarios and other bits of humor that turn into mixed bags of success.

I would not call Hell Baby an all-out disappointment, as I did not have my hopes incredibly high, but given that it could have been a funnier movie, given all the funny people in it, it still did not sit right with me.  Perhaps some of the attempts at humor could grow on me over time, but I would be more likely to jump to scenes I liked, rather than go through the whole film again.

Video: 

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Hell Baby’s high definition transfer was enough to satisfy.  While the film certainly has a visual aesthetic that goes well with the idea that this is film is set in New Orleans, mainly within a dilapidated home, there are also moments that venture into more brightly lit and colorful environments.  During these scenes the film looks pretty great.  Even in the darker scenes, the film has a fine handle on the black levels, while continuing to deliver on other strong elements, such as textures and look of various interiors, clothing, and the actors themselves.  For a low-budget comedy, the film looks pretty good.

Audio: 

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There are some key things you look for in the audio quality of a horror-comedy.  The dialogue should be clear, as there is likely a lot of it.  Also, the mimicking of scares via big music riffs and other familiar elements should be fairly effective.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack handles these aspects quite well.  There is a good balance of the various audio elements to be heard in Hell Baby and it makes this listening experience a good enough one.

Extras: 

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Really?  No commentary?  Ugh.  This is the kind of film that could have had a variety of participants involved, which may have retroactively made the film better, because of how much comedy potential there was in the commentary.  No luck though.  Instead, the only features on this disc are a collection of deleted scenes and outtakes.

Features Include:

Deleted Scenes – Nearly a half hour of deleted and extended scenes from the film, with a few outtakes thrown in at the end.  It is a decent look at the improve process, which this film seemed to clearly rely on in many instances

Gag Reel – There are two separate outtake sections.  One is a traditional gag reel that lasts about 5 minutes.  The other is a series of improved lines and reactions set during one particular scene in the film.

Previews

Summary:  hell baby whysoblu 1

While it is commendable to see writer/directors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon finally take a stab at making their own film and populating it with a lot of their funny friends, Hell Baby is ultimately less enjoyable than I would have hoped.  It has a series of moments that are somewhat inspired, but for the most part the film does not quite connect all the jokes.  The Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty solid, but the extras leave a lot to be desired.  If you are fans of the people involved in this film, a rental is perhaps your best plan of attack.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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