Peter’s Retro Reviews: Lady in White (1988)

October 6, 2011

Lady in White posterby Peter Nielsen

”The year is 1962. The place is Willowpoint Falls. Nobody talks about what happened in the school cloakroom 10 years ago. Now, in the dead of night, Frankie Scarlatti is going to find out.”

It’s confession-time again! Prior to watching Lady in White for this review, I hadn’t seen it before! Why? I don’t know! I’ve had it in my collection for some time, but just haven’t gotten around to watching it. After reading Joel’s article “6 Must See Movies From 1988” right here on the Forgotten Flix site, I thought that I had better get to it. That was in January and I still didn’t watch it until last week… Too many movies and so little time and all that, huh? To be honest, I also held it back so I could include it in the October Spooky Flix Fest ‘cause it deserves a little time in the spotlight.

The movie begins with the aforementioned Frankie returning to his hometown Willowpoint Falls (love that name) for Halloween. From the conversation he has with his cab driver, we learn that he’s a successful writer of horror-stories. As they pass the cemetery he asks the driver to pull over for a little while. They walk through the beautiful cemetery-gates, which we later find out is made by his father, and stop at two graves. The driver asks Frankie if he knows them and this is where the story starts…

We’re now back in 1962 and Frankie is 9 years old and him and his brother are getting ready for school. It’s Halloween so naturally Frankie is dressed up and is taking a pumpkin with him. In class they have a little party and Frankie reads one of his new stories out loud to the delight of his teacher and classmates. Two of them are not impressed though and decides to play a prank on Frankie, which will lead to him being locked up in the school cloak-room for most of the night.

Going full throttle on his way to school.

Going full throttle on his way to school.

With the school empty there’s no-one to hear him and with no means to escape he settles down and eventually falls asleep. He later wakes up and hears singing and then the ghost of a young girl enters the room. She does a little dance and continues with her song and then appears to have a conversation with someone. This someone suddenly turns nasty and kills the little girl. We can’t see the assailant, only the poor girl re-living her own death. All through this Frankie stares on in disbelief and horror.

And it is a horrific and heartbreaking scene, as the little girl struggles and cries out for her mommy, before finally dropping to the floor and disappearing. I’m not ashamed to say that it almost brought tears to my eyes. The movie as a whole is kind of lighthearted and funny, BUT there are a number of scenes that are genuinely creepy and scary. It’s like a kid’s movie, but with a dark twist, if you know what I mean? Have you seen the movie Hocus Pocus from 1993? The one starring Bette Midler? It’s kind of in the same vein as that.

After the ghost has disappeared Frankie hears approaching foot-steps and the door opens. We never see the person entering clearly ‘cause he’s always in the shadows. He’s obviously looking for something and tries to pry open the heating-vent at the floor to get at something at the bottom of it. In the haunting-scene earlier, we’ve heard a distinct “clinking” sound as if something was dropped during the killing.

Silently watching!

Silently watching!

So this person is apparently the killer returning to retrieve whatever it was that he dropped before. Why he’s doing this now, all these years later, is explained in the movie. All this time Frankie is watching, trying to make as little noise as possible. Unfortunately for him, a little rat appears on the same ledge as he’s hiding and scurries closer…

Frankie is superbly portrayed by a young Lukas Haas (Witness, Mars Attacks, Inception) by the way. He does a great job as the little boy trying to re-unite the ghost-girl with her mother, the titular lady in white, and at the same time trying to find out who the murderer is.

His father, Angelo, is played by an actor who’s been in a ton of stuff, The Entity and Gotcha! for instance. Alex Rocco is his name and if you can’t really put a face to the name right up front, I know you’ll nod your head in recognition once you see him.

The same goes for Len Cariou who plays Phil and Tom Bower who plays Sheriff Saunders. Both of them are recognizable faces with the former having been in Murder, she wrote and Executive Decision and the latter in Die Hard 2 and Raising Cain to name just a couple.

The ghost of the little girl being carried away.

The ghost of the little girl being carried away.

The movie Lady in White can easily be said to be the child of Frank LaLoggia ‘cause he’s not only the director of it, but also the writer and producer. He wrote some of the music in it and he even has an un-credited role as the adult Frankie Scarlatti at the start of the movie. As far as I know, he’s only directed two other movies namely Fear No Evil from 1981 and Mother from 1996, neither of which I’ve seen.

I think he’s made a great murder mystery/ghost story with a little comedy thrown into the mix and he’s managed to capture the spirit of the season too, ‘cause Lady in White definitely has a Halloween-feel to it, for lack of a better word. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s one I know I’ll be returning to from time to time. I like these dark fairy-tale kind of stories, and if Halloween is somehow involved… count me in!

I mentioned Hocus Pocus before and I’d also like to mention another “Halloween-favorite” of mine… The TV-movie The Midnight Hour from 1985. I’d place Lady in White somewhere in between them in terms of darkness. Darker than Hocus Pocus, but lighter than The Midnight Hour. Does that make sense to you? Hell… just watch all three of them, you won’t regret it.

And on that little side-track I’ll leave you for this week!

Until next time my friends…



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