So Hell Baby is not, exactly, this year’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape. It is, however, a small triumph of independence. Co-stars Lennon and Garant are famous screenwriters who worked on numerous studio-driven products like Night at the Museum and Herbie: Fully Loaded. They even wrote a book on how to work within the studio system and make a living as a screenwriter, as opposed to most books, which focus on how to write a well-structured script in an industry vacuum. They are used to working with ridiculous studio notes and producing aggressively mainstream product. Hell Baby, although it’s certainly a commercial piece of broad entertainment, is the first film they have actually produced on their own terms, writing and directing it together. It would be an exaggeration to say that it’s the next Blazing Saddles or anything, but it’s fair to call it a genuinely hilarious farce.
It’s sad, in fact, that a film as directly comedic as Hell Baby feels so refreshing in the current motion picture environment. Broad comedies nowadays mostly seem to belong to the generally inept “spoof” category, or brainless family fare (some of which, in all fairness, Hell Baby’s filmmakers are at least partially responsible for themselves), and movies starring Adam Sandler. Hell Baby doesn’t quite fit in any of those genres. It’s a horror comedy, with the comedy outweighing the horror by at least 20%, and although the plot is reminiscent of films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining, the humor doesn’t rely on references to other – and almost universally better – movies to fill time. Cut out the jokes, make the lighting spookier, and it’s a real horror film (although not a particularly amazing one). Insert jokes, and the somewhat serious horror tropes increase audience involvement a bit when things get wacky