Lady In White (1988)
Cast: Lukas Haas
Extras: Photo gallery, Documentary, Deleted scenes, Commentary track, Trailers
Frank LaLoggia’s "Lady In White" is a visually pleasing, inspired movie with plenty of personality. Unique among its kind and entertaining to watch, this film puts the finger exactly on the term "haunted". It explores experiences and choices we all have made in our lives, especially when we were growing up, afraid of the dark, with ghosts lurking in the unknown. Wrapped up in a child’s murder mystery, "Lady In White" delivers all the goods you need to create a mystical, heartwarming story.
Ten year old Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is an exceptional child with a vivid imagination. Some of his classmates consider him weird because of his inclination for ghost and monster stories. In reality, the boy is compensating for the loss of his beloved mother only a short time ago. He thinks of her as a ghost, watching over him, just as she had promised when he was younger. On Halloween, 1962, two of his fourth grade classmates play a prank on him, locking Frankie up in the cloakroom, where he has to spend the night. Bravely the boy sits by the window of his confinement, waiting for the morning to come, when eventually he falls asleep. Not for long though. In the middle of the night, the ghost of a little girl appears in the closet and Frankie witnesses her murder, an event that happened in the very same spot ten years earlier. Terrified, the boy huddles up in the corner of the room… and then the killer returns – this time for real!
Apparently, during his attack on the little Melissa ten years ago, the murderer lost a ring in one of the room’s ventilation tunnels, and now, when they are all supposed to be replaced, he is afraid that someone might find the token, identifying him as the serial murderer of ten children. The frightened Frankie silently watches the shadowy figure search the place until the killer detects him and attacks the boy. Close to death, he is finally discovered by his father, who has been searching all over the small town for his missing boy, finally pointed in the right direction by one of the pranksters.
As Frankie recovers, the ghost of Melissa appears to him every night, appealing for help in finding her long-lost mother. Having heard the ghost stories about the Lady In White, who roams the cliffs at night, he is determined to solve the mystery, bring the killer to justice, and give peace to the girl’s restless soul. It takes a lot of sweat, blood, and bravery from the ten year old boy to deal with ghosts, eerie forests, and haunted houses, but eventually he finds the legendary Lady in White and the killer who is trying to kill him once again.
The movie is very well acted, and Lukas Haas as the main character surprises with the remarkable depth he creates in Frankie. He is uninhibited in front of the camera, giving the viewer the impression that he is really following the events just as they unfold. While being a ghost movie, "Lady In White" also contains an element of light-hearted humor and many heartwarming scenes – which unfortunately tend to become one of the film’s weakest spots. The family scenes are brilliant and very funny, with brotherly in-fights and all the elements that made movies like "The Christmas Story" memorable classics.
On the other hand, it delivers some real scares and the haunting atmosphere grows intense towards the end of the film. It is hard to place the movie, as it is a ride somewhere between "The Goonies" and a true crime thriller. It’s too hard to swallow and too graphic for children, yet too light-hearted for many adults, I’m afraid. The movie’s script also exhibits some weaknesses; however, these are negligible as the overall atmosphere and flow of the movie is perfectly paced and brought to life. The script also touches on social issues such as racism on the side, lending more credibility to the movie and placing it in a "real" environment.
"Lady In White" comes as a 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> Director’s Cut Edition from Elite Entertainment on a <$RSDL,dual layer> DVD, including over six minutes of "never-before-seen" footage in the film. The image quality of the disc is great, without any <$pixelation,pixelation> or <$chroma,chroma noise>. The picture is a little soft, giving it a very smooth look, which was probably the director’s intention. The colors of the transfer are solid but a little oversaturated. Fleshtones appear somewhat orange, making some of the gorgeous outdoor photography almost surreal looking. Once again, this could have been the director’s intention, because the beauty of the Indian Summer setting in upstate New York, in the director’s home town, is almost surreal itself. Pictures like these almost make me want to leave sunny California behind, luring me to areas with actual season changes…
The disc contains plenty of supplements which are all accessible through the atmospheric menu screens, including a still photo library, a 10-minute "behind-the-scenes" documentary and a selection of scenes deleted from the movie. It also contains a full-length <$commentary,commentary track> by the movie’s director-producer Frank LaLoggia, together with various trailers. The 7-minute promo special is quite a treat as well. Usually studios commit to a movie, financing all or at least big parts of the production. This gives them a say in the production, of course, allowing them to change certain things and aspects about the production the way they deem it suitable. Many directors have been burned by this methodology as the studios’ interests are not always compatible with the directors’ views. Obviously Frank LaLoggia was one such case, and in order to avoid this kind of interference, he simply circumvented the studios and raised the movie’s budget himself through penny-stock options. To get potential stock holders excited, he produced this promo special, which is essentially a short version of the movie, but nevertheless contains all of the visual impact and character the final full length movie exhibits.
"Lady In White" also features an excellent, remixed <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack. The music has also been written by director Frank LaLoggia. It is an excellent musical score that shows how much detail LaLoggia had planned in the movie’s production. It never interferes with the images, builds tension and mystery when needed, and always sets the mood for the scenes to come. The music score can also be found as a crystal-clear, three-part, isolated soundtrack on the disc. Unfortunately the disc does not contain any language track other than English and neither foreign subtitles nor <$CC,closed captions> are available, which is quite surprising for the otherwise very rich edition of this movie.
I greatly enjoyed "Lady In White". The movie’s unique story and intriguing character puts it in a league of its own, that is – due to some of the graphic scenes and the intense ending – hard to place. If you like movies that focus mainly on children as main characters and their adventures as they explore their world, this is a movie you should definitely see. It is an imaginative movie with a stunning visual representation that mostly relies on its characters, atmospheric lighting and music to capture the viewer.