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The Lady in White Movie Review

frankie laloggia frank melissa

Writer/director Frank LaLoggia clearly spent a great deal of time and care to make his movie exactly the way he wanted it: Lady in White is a lovely, gentle film that really understands childhood terrors on their own terms. Lukas Haas, whose large brown eyes were so memorable in 1986's Witness, plays 10-year-old writer Frank Scarlatti. Frankie's vivid imagination scares his classmates when he reads The Beast that Destroyed London to them on Halloween Day, 1962. Two of them, Donald and Louie, decide to scare Frankie by locking him in the school cloakroom overnight. While there, Frankie has intense nightmares about his dead mother and wakes up to watch the re-enactment of the 1951 murder of Melissa, a beautiful little red-haired ghost, by her invisible slayer. She asks for Frankie's help, but then he is nearly strangled by the same child-killer who murdered Melissa. Frankie is shown astrally projecting, and, in a beautifully photographed sequence, agreeing to help Melissa. When LaLoggia sticks with Frankie, he never makes a false step. There are suggestions that he may not have had faith in his basic material. He wants to make a social statement about civil rights, too. He also strains to pump comedy and nostalgia into the proceedings by making buffoons of Frankie's elderly grandparents and by over-sweetening some of the family scenes. None of these strategies is particularly effective or necessary. Frankie's nightmares, his meetings with Melissa, his search for her mother, and his discovery of the killer are quite chilling enough for any horror movie. Instead of padding the plot with extranea, time could either have been shaved or better spent exploring the personality of the killer, since his identity is no surprise. Eerie use is made of the 1933 Bing Crosby hit, “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?,” but if that were the killer's favorite song, Frankie would have known who he was right away, not after 92 minutes. The acting by Lukas Haas as Frankie, Jason Presson as his brother Gene, Joelle Jacob as the haunting Melissa, and by Len Cariou, Alex Rocco, and Katherine Helmond as the grown-ups is sensitive and convincing. LaLoggia and his cousin raised the production money from 4000 investors in upstate New York where this film was made. The results? Even though Lady in White only has a PG-13 rating, it was the first horror movie in ages that genuinely frightened me.

1988 (PG-13) 92m/C Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco, Katherine Helmond, Jason Presson, Renata Vanni, Angelo Bertolini, Jared Rushton, Joelle Jacob; D: Frank LaLoggia; W: Frank LaLoggia; C: Russell Carpenter; M: Frank LaLoggia. VHS, LV, Letter-box, Closed Caption, DVD

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