I’m obsessed with banned or unaired films/episodes for television series. Naturally, when I discovered through my travels on the web that Nickelodeon made a movie for the Halloween season, and only aired it once, I was intrigued.
On October 28th of 2000, kids around the world watched Cry Baby Lane, for the first—and for many years the only—time. Nickelodeon even went so far as to deny the film ever existed due to the incredible number of complaints the network received from parents after it first aired. According to IMDB, Nick has since reaired it, on Halloween of 2011.
I managed to track down the film (don’t ask me how; I will not implicate myself in anything) and watched it. And holy crap. For a kids show, this thing is pants-shittingly terrifying. Think some of the first Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes when they were still scary, but cranked up a few notches.
On an unrelated side note, Melissa Joan Heart as Sabrina the Teenage Witch introduces the film. Melissa, if you happen to read this, I had a huge crush on you when I was a preteen (and still do). I used to watch Clarissa Explains it All a lot. Hell, probably too much. I once had a dream where I got to visit the set, and we hung out, had a great time, and then we kissed right before I woke up. Granted, I was about 11, and she was probably 16 when she filmed it, but it was a dream, so what the fuck ever! (Melissa: Call me, maybe?)
A good snippet to really set the tone of the piece for you is the opening monologue told by Frank Langella, playing the role of Mr. Bennett. Mr. Bennett owns a funeral parlor, might I add, and is telling this story to children. It strikes me as sounding very much like a tale from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, another good traumatizer for us when we were wee.
It all happened, some time ago. There was a farmer, whose wife gave birth to twins. But something was terribly wrong. Due to a rare embryonic mutation, the infants joined as one flesh, and came into this world freaks… and the farmer hid them away.
As they grew it became clear that one was good, and the other was evil. Now it happened, that one of the twins fell ill, and because they shared the same liver, the illness quickly spread, and they both perished.
Not wanting to expose his shame, the farmer decided to unjoin the bodies, and bury only the good son in the town cemetary. He buried the evil son in a fallow field, at the end of an old dirt road called Cry Baby Lane. Because legend has it, anyone caught out there at night on that desolate road, can hear the cries of the evil child, calling for vengeance… from beyond the grave.
I don’t want to spoil this gem I watched in an entirely legal capacity (cough YouTube cough) but I will say that the beginning images set underneath Lanegella’s monologue seem as if they are a riff on the intro to Are You Afraid of the Dark?, just way more disturbing. Observe:
Cry Baby Lane was written by Peter Lauer and Robert Mittenthal. Mithenhal wrote for the cartoon show Kablam! on Nick, and Lauer wrote for The Secret World of Alex Mack. Lauer also wrote a personal favorite show for Nick, The Adventures of Pete and Pete. (I was a redheaded child in the 90’s, no shit I liked Pete and Pete.) Cry Baby Lane was directed by Lauer, and, man I don’t know if they just weren’t sure how far to go with it, or just no longer cared if they worked for Nick, but the flick seems written only to legitimately freak out children and make them wet their beds.
The dynamic between the two brothers seems entirely authentic. The older brother is a mean bastard, and does nothing but beat up his younger brother. It gets downright abusive.
I can see why they got so many complaints about the film. One major reason could be the plot involves the children of the town being possessed by an evil spirit, which causes them to do all sorts of mischief. The older brother, when in possessed mode, does something that could easily have killed his younger brother. I’ll let you watch and laugh at it without my spoiling your fun.
If you’re a fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, track this beast down. Hell, even if you aren’t, this October, give it a watch. It’s worth it for Frank Langella’s performance alone.