Andrew (Jase Blankfort) and his older brother Carl (Trey Rogers) enjoy listening to ghost stories that the local undertaker (Frank Langella) tells them. One night he tells the tale of a loca... Read allAndrew (Jase Blankfort) and his older brother Carl (Trey Rogers) enjoy listening to ghost stories that the local undertaker (Frank Langella) tells them. One night he tells the tale of a local farmer whose wife gave birth to Siamese twins, one being good natured while the other wa... Read allAndrew (Jase Blankfort) and his older brother Carl (Trey Rogers) enjoy listening to ghost stories that the local undertaker (Frank Langella) tells them. One night he tells the tale of a local farmer whose wife gave birth to Siamese twins, one being good natured while the other was clearly evil. The farmer, ashamed of them, kept the twins locked in their room. Eventual... Read all
As the story goes, Cry Baby Lane was so scary that Nickelodeon only ever aired it one time, after which it was locked away in a vault forever -- becoming something of an urban legend. That is until almost 11 years later, when someone on Reddit discovered a high-quality master copy of the movie, and with renewed buzz, Nickelodeon dusted it back off and began airing it again.
The truth of the matter is... yeah, actually, there are a few scenes in Cry Baby Lane that are probably too dark for a made-for-TV movie aired on The Spongebob Channel. Whether or not it's actually "scary" is up for debate I guess, because there aren't really monsters or anything approaching legitimate horror or violence. It's a little bit more suggestively haunting than it is terrifying. But even compared to shows like Nickelodeon's own Are You Afraid of the Dark, Cry Baby Lane has a couple of moments that were beyond most of what was done on the channel at the time.
Honestly, I would not be surprised if it gave some kids lasting nightmares. It's kind of got that "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" vibe to it, where the whole world slowly turns against the increasingly isolated protagonist. Even for adults, that can be spooky, and Cry Baby Lane definitely uses this to push things in some strange directions. I'm watching this for the first time at 37 years old, and there are parts of it that are actually a little unsettling even to me.
According to the movie's history, Cry Baby Lane was originally written as a big-budget theatrical release, but after a series of box-office bombs, Nickelodeon got cold feet and downgraded it to a much cheaper TV movie. That might explain Cry Baby Lane's darker tones, but I think the creators also probably realized their movie was a little too intense for a channel that aired Rugrats and iCarly.
As a direct result, between scarier scenes, Cry Baby Lane tries to lighten the mood with cheap, bizarre, kid-friendly humor. Fart jokes, Lord of the Rings references (years before Peter Jackson) and cracks about 2000's-era pro wrestling desperately seek to cut the tension multiple times throughout the movie.
This is what dates Cry Baby Lane most, and really drags it down overall. The humor is corny at best, and obnoxious at worst -- especially the older brother, Carl, who constantly espouses an old fashioned ideal of masculinity by constantly bullying his younger brother for "acting like a girl." It's not exactly progressive by modern standards, and usually comes off more as cringeworthy than anything. There's never a point to Carl's actions, he just gets a free pass to treat his younger brother like scum. It's not fun to watch, and it never really pays off in a way that feels earned.
There's a lot of potential in Cry Baby Lane, and some genuinely spooky ideas. But it kind of ends up being one of those things that struggles to find a balance for its audience. Sometimes it's too silly for older teenagers, and other times, too scary for younger kids. And for the newer generation only familiar with its urban legend, I don't expect a lot of its pop-culture humor will land very well. That leaves a pretty narrow window of appeal.
I don't want to say that it's bad, because if you come at it from a certain mindset and consider the era it was made in, I think you'll still get something out of it. But it's sort of hard to recommend, otherwise.
- Sep 29, 2020