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 ...
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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 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. Eventually the twins got sick and died together, so the farmer sawed them in half and buried the good twin in a cemetery and the bad twin in a shallow grave near the house. Later, Carl and his friends decide to hold a séance in the cemetery where the good twin is buried, but they unintentionally awaken the bad twin instead. Gradually, he possesses nearly everyone in town and it is up to young Andrew to stop him.Written by
A difficult movie to review for how scattered its tone is.
As the story goes, Cry Baby Lane was so scary that Nickelodeon only ever aired it once, after which it was locked away in a vault forever -- becoming something of an urban legend. Until, almost 11 years later, someone on Reddit discovered a 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 way too dark and intense for a made-for-TV movie aired on a kids channel. Whether or not it's "scary" is up for debate, because there aren't really monsters or anything approaching horror or violence. It's a little bit more psychological than that, which is more haunting and unnerving than it is scream-out-loud terrifying. Just the same, 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 is slowly falling apart around you. Even for adults, that can be spooky, and Cry Baby Lane doesn't pull very many of its punches. I'm watching this for the first time at 37 years old, and there are parts of it that are 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 scaled it back dramatically to work for TV. That might explain why it can be legitimately creepy when it wants to be, but I think the creators also probably realized their movie was a little too intense for the television crowd. So, in between scarier scenes, they try to lighten the mood with bizarre, kid-friendly humor. Fart jokes, Lord of the Rings references (years before Peter Jackson) and cracks about 2000's-era pop-culture abound (mostly, pro wrestling).
This is what dates Cry Baby Lane most, and really drags it down in the modern context. The humor is cheesy at best, and obnoxious at worst -- especially the older brother, Carl, who constantly espouses an old fashioned ideal of masculinity by repeatedly bullying his younger brother for "acting like a girl." That says enough by itself that it's kind of cringeworthy, but it suggests a whole host of other problems with the movie's tone that aren't exactly progressive. There's never a point to Carl's actions, he just gets to be gigantic piece of garbage to his younger brother without much punishment or redemption. He's practically a secondary villain and never has to answer for that. It's not fun to watch.
There's a lot of potential in Cry Baby Lane, and some genuinely spooky ideas. It threatens to be a little too grown-up for its audience, but rather than commit to that idea, it tries to wrench itself back in the other direction. In doing so, it turns into the sort of thing that struggles to find an audience -- it's too adult for some, too childish for others, and still more will be turned off by its outdated ideals. 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.
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