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October 28th, 2011


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11:26 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Cry Baby Lane
In addition to wit, brevity is good for all sorts of things. Scary movies, for instance. It's the reason you've never seen a 160-minute horror movie, and why the anthology-style films of the British studio Amicus sold so well (I know you don't know what I'm talking about, but look into it. They're good.). Cry Baby Lane would have benefitted from a little more brevity.

You've either never heard of Cry Baby Lane, or you just became aware of it. It's a movie produced by Nickelodeon in 2000. Originally envisioned as a modestly-budgeted theatrical release, the budget was finally cut to $800,000, and the result aired once (and only once) on TV. The story goes that it was banned thanks to a flood of calls and letters from angry parents who thought it too frightening for children. There was no DVD release, and it was never available anywhere else.

And then about a month ago, somebody digitized and uploaded to YouTube a VHS tape they'd made of the original broadcast. I snagged a copy with the intention of watching it later, shortly after which Viacom had the film taken down. Other people have rushed to re-post it, but those links will likely be taken down soon. Those still wishing to see it could probably torrent it, though the renewed interest has prompted Nickelodeon to re-broadcast it a couple of times this weekend. Check your listings, blah blah blah.

So what's so scary about Cry Baby Lane, anyway?

The film follows Carl and Andrew, two boys in their early teens. They hang out occasionally with Mr. Bennet (the always-intense Frank Langella) who tells them creepy stories about the undertaking business, much to their mother's chagrin.

One night, Bennet tells them of a local farmer who fathered a pair of conjoined twins. As the twins grew, it became clear that one was good and one was evil. They died prematurely, and the farmer separated their bodies, having the good one buried in the local cemetery, and the bad one buried near the farm. Carl decides to play a trick on a few of the local girls, and enlists Andrew's help. They go into the cemetery, locate a child's grave, and rig a tape recorder to play spooky sounds. The two boys return later in the evening with the girls and hold a seance which is interrupted by the pre-recorded shrieks and moans. The girls call them jerks, and it's a pretty lousy night, in all.

The next morning, things are different in town. Dogs are meaner. People are acting less responsibly. A gang of vicious teenage girls is tormenting other citizens. Mr. Bennett pieces things together and figures out that an evil spirit is causing mischief. Turns out that he didn't tell the boys the whole story: Just before burial, the bodies of the twins were switched. They've awakened the evil one. Now everyone, including Carl, is out to get Andrew.

I can see why this might have bothered parents. It's awfully suspenseful. The callous figures are really callous, and people do die. Nickelodeon swears they never officially banned it, and I'm inclined to believe that; between the angry parents and the unpopularity of the broadcast, there was simply no reason to air it again. That has changed recently, and I wonder if we won't be seeing a DVD in the near future.

I didn't much care for it, and I think it would have been tighter and more exciting if it had been a bit shorter. The kids are all pretty good, and in addition to Langella, we also get a pre-stardom Jim Gaffigan. The director, Peter Lauer has a lot of TV work under his belt, including episodes of Scrubs, Pushing Daisies, Arrested Development, and so on. He knows what he's doing, so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt: this movie was for kids, after all.

For the most part, though I was just kind of bored. I think people overrate it because it's been so hard to see until recently, and as I said, I'm probably the wrong age for it.

No trailer, but here's a YouTube search which would probably lead you to the whole thing.

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31 Days of Halloween: Cry Baby Lane - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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