lady-in-white-1988

Four Films: Autumnal Horror – Lady in White (1988)

Our second Autumnal Horror film is a ghost story told through a young boys point of view. The year is 1962 and two bullies lock Frankie in the school cloakroom on Halloween. He’s scared but content to wait out the night–until he witnesses a ghost reenacting her murder.

A truly unsettling moment.

A truly unsettling moment.

Lady In White is an odd mix of ghost story and coming of age. We’re introduced to the events as a flashback when a man returns to his hometown and can’t shake the bad memories. Lucas Haas plays Frankie, the protagonist, an awkward boy who recently lost his mother and is unsure of his place in the family.

Remember when classrooms were decorated and students wore costumes?

Remember when classrooms were decorated and students wore costumes?

Director Frank LaLoggia paints an idyllic Halloween in small town America in the 60s. We see crisp leaves, pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, and everything and everyone is decked in black and orange. Then it isn’t. One moment we’re sad about missing tricks and treats and the next we are curled into a ball on the couch terrified. The main cast nails their roles in this ghost mystery. Take note of Alex Rocco‘s refreshing turn as the caring father.

This kid is about to learn how real the lady in white is.

This kid is about to learn how real the lady in white is.

The movie isn’t perfect. Children eight to 14 will likely find it scary. Adults may be more apt to notice it drag here and there. Some of the comic relief parts are used too often and take away much needed gravity. One of the biggest problems is the uneven score written by the director. It was a passion project for LaLoggia and it shows in is inability to trim music and scenes. Additionally, one can’t help but notice the strong parallels with To Kill A Mockingbird. If I were to truly nitpick, this film needs an epilogue since we got a prologue. I urge you to try to approach this with the innocence and pain of childhood. It is a good movie.

Since my first viewing at an adolescent slumber party, I’ve held onto this film. It’s oddly magical, mystical, murderous, and mundane all at once. It stands the test of time for me.

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