‘Cry Baby Lane’ – The Children’s Movie Nickelodeon didn’t want you to know about.
Author: Lisha Blackhurst
Cry Baby Lane is a Nickelodeon TV-movie I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, and it was only after I started to compile my list of “Scariest Are You Afraid of the Dark” episodes that I decided that it was time. There is something fascinating about analysing a television feature that is targeted for a younger viewer, making its content all the more disturbing for an impressionable young mind. And while of course an adult horror movie would divulge in more graphic content, a children’s movie works on a different level, meaning every scene needs to be treated carefully to make it suitable for a more vulnerable viewer, which leads me to wonder how Cry Baby Lane ever made it to air [but I’m happy that it did!]
It pains me that I wasn’t one of the few that managed to witness CBL first-hand back when it was aired on Nickelodeon for Halloween in 2000 to US viewers only. As a 10 year old, I adored Strange but True, Ghostwatch, and all the simple ghostly things that just don’t get created anymore – CBL would have been right up my street. Nickelodeon allegedly received so many complaints from parents deeming it as too distressing for children that it was swiftly banished and never to be aired again, with many people claiming they thought they had dreamt up ever seeing the movie. After a user finally uploaded a VHS tape version of the movie in 2011, the network succumbed to the controversial hype and finally decided to show it as a one-off special on TeenNick, which means the rest of us could all see it for the first time.
The film centres on the twisted legend of conjoined twins, which is by far the creepiest aspect of the production, and definitely not without its controversy. The film opens with a haunting narrative told whilst atmospheric piano music is playing alongside creaking doors, thunder and the eerie sound of a babies wailing, running with images of an old farmhouse and dismembered cuddly toys. We are told that the twins are, “due to a rare embryonic mutation,” banished into hiding by their ashamed father. The outright prejudice from the beginning is shocking, especially for a children’s viewing, as the twins were referred to as “freaks.” With the infants being of “the same flesh,” when one of the twins fell ill, because they shared the same liver, the illness “quickly spread and they both perished.” The shame of having created such mutants, the father is said to have “unjoined” the bodies by sawing them in half and burying them separately; one that was “good” in a cemetery and the other “evil” down on Cry Baby Lane. The language displayed is impressively mature, and far scarier than any Are You Afraid of the Dark episode, and the barbaric idea of sawing two infants in half in a children’s Tv movie, well, that’s just twisted.
The remainder of CBL centres on the story on two dysfunctional brothers, Carl and Andrew, and while the opening sequence may well be the creepiest aspect of the movie, the relationship between them for me is far more controversial. The older brother Carl is a troubled demented teenager, who bullies his younger brother in such a way that is doesn’t appear jovial and light, it seems downright disturbing, making it feel intended for a much older audience. The boys, wanting to scare some girls they like, hold a séance in the graveyard and inadvertently summon the spirit of the evil twin that swiftly begins to possess everyone in the town, including Carl. Thus ensues several scenes that just feel inappropriate for children; the brothers are seen riding their bikes voluntarily into an oncoming train as a dare, a nine year old child is seen hitting an old man until he collapses, Andrew is seen running from a corn harvester through a corn field driven by a possessed farmer, the list goes on.
The movie in its entirety is nothing to write home about, and the real life myth surrounding it is far more interesting than the film itself, but well worth the watch just because of its unsavoury reputation. The storyline is as disjointed as the twins demise is, but has it entertaining scenes and is as good if not better than most Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes, and by far more perverted. If you are a fan of any of the old Nickelodeon productions, it is worth watching solely for its infamous notoriety and history. There’s also a Creepypasta worth checking out on it that adds to the whole mythology of the production that’s good fun if you like stuff like that. Enjoy!