Welcome to the most underrated film on this countdown! Released in 1988, Lady in White is one of the first “horror” movies I can ever recall seeing. The quotes around “horror” are necessary because as I’ll soon point out, this movie seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Calling Lady in White a horror film is like calling The Goonies a horror film. Yes, it is technically a horror film and classified as such by whoever the people are who classify such things, but there’s enough of a non-horror plot and un-scary stuff in it to make me question its status. I would call it a coming-of-age paranormal mystery drama adventure with light horror elements, but what do I know? I only pretend to be a movie expert on the internet. Though mostly kid-friendly, Lady in White does have mature themes and several moments that are probably pretty frightening to a child. I can definitely recall at least one bad dream or two after watching this at age 7.
The Lady in White tells a classic ghost story, but frames it in a young man’s childhood memories. Set in 1962, the majority of the film is a flashback into protagonist Frankie Scarlatti’s life, a young boy living in the idealistic, picturesque town of Willowpoint Falls. On Halloween night he gets trapped in the coat closet at school and sees the ghost of a young girl and her murderer as it happened 10 years ago. He is later haunted by the girl, who wants him to help find her mother. At the spirit’s encouragement, Frankie begins to stumble onto clues about her murder and goes on something of a local adventure to find her killer and crosses paths with the mysterious figure Lady in White. Saying much more than that would give too much away, and this is one of those movies I hope you’ll actually go watch if you haven’t seen it, and I don’t know how I could live with myself if I spoiled it for you.
I obviously have no idea what it was like growing up in a small town in New England in the early 1960s, but damn if this movie doesn’t make me wish I had. The primary reason I love this movie, and why it deserves a spot on this countdown, is the rich fall scenery and Halloween decorations. The first half of this film positively oozes Halloween as the whole town of Willowpoint Falls seems to be decked out and completely in the spirit. Add in the lush golden, brown and orange foliage, rows of cornfields, and the rain cloud-dotted sky and we’ve got ourselves a movie that’s picture-perfect for setting the Halloween mood. Seriously, many of this movie’s scenes are like looking at a moving postcard.
Not everything about this movie is perfect, though. It was written, direct and produced by Frank LaLoggia, who doesn’t have much else to his credit. You could certainly say this film was his “baby” and as such, he probably had too-heavy a hand in its production. With a running time of 2 hours it’s way too long for what kind of movie it is, it has pacing problems, and the special effects could be better–even for 1988. But hey, I’m not here to pass judgement. I’m here to tell you that as far as Halloween-centric movies go, this is a great little film that’s often overlooked. If this film’s script was tightened up and it had better editing, I’m wiling to bet Lady in White would be a much more popular film than what it is now. That being said, it’s one that I enjoy watching every couple of years or so when the air turns chilly, the leaves turn brown, and I lay in bed at night too afraid to look out my window for fear I’ll see the Lady in White!
The Halloween that Frankie Scarlatti didn’t make it home.
What is 31 DVDs of Halloween?
As a special feature for the Halloween Countdown, I’m showcasing 31 Halloween DVDs from my personal collection. I have a lot of Halloween-related and horror DVDs in general, but for this year’s countdown I’m only going to focus on my absolute favorites–the ones I consider 100% essential for my enjoyment of the holiday.