Lady in White (1988) – Frank LaLoggia

Frank LaLoggia scarred a number of my generation with his film Lady in White, which he wrote and directed. I remember countless friends, and others telling me how much it freaked me out. I had seen it once in the late 80s, just as I was getting into horror movies as a late teenager, and latecomer, and don’t remember being overly impressed with it, though I always did like the young lead, Lukas Haas.

Watching it now, it’s easy to see that the film is overly nostalgic, and sentimental in its storytelling, and it’s not as strong as I remember it being. And while Haas and Alex Rocco turn in fairly solid performances not all of the actors, kids or adults are that strong.

LaLoggia has spoken about how the film was inspired by an urban legend he lived with as a child about a woman in white who haunted the night lamenting the loss of her daughter at the hands of a killer. That serves as the basis of the plot for the film sees young Frank (Haas) gets tricked and locked in the cloakroom of his school and while there sees the ghost of a little girl who is murdered and has a close encounter with her murderer who has returned to the scene of the crime.

When Frank is rescued from the brink of death, the school janitor is arrested and tried simply because of the colour of his skin. The storyline follows this arc through to its end, and it is as tragic as that of the Lady in White.

As the story unfurls, Frank encounters the ghost girl on a regular basis, and she has more of an effect on the physical world than you would think a ghost would. Frank and his brother, Geno (Jason Presson) work on trying to figure out who the killer is, having recovered the very same piece of evidence from the cloakroom that the murderer has been looking for.

While the film plays out, it comes as no surprise to anyone who the real murderer is. There isn’t a big cast, and it’s the only option that makes sense, but it feels like it lacks imagination. Despite that, there are some legitimately creepy moments, but the drabness of the rest of the film seems to tower over its exceptional moments.

And then there’s the whole visual effects work. They look horrible now, and even at the time, they would have been a little jarring to anyone but the youngest viewer I’m sure. The matte lines are always visible, and what’s with the weird lights flying into the sky at night? That was really odd.

Not every film from my youth is going to age well, but some of them will continue to shine, this one has lost a little of its lustre.

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