Lady in White (1988)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Childhood Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 22, 1988 (USA)  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it features some moments of spooky charm and sincere melancholy -- and a precocious lead performance by whippersnapper Lukas Haas -- this curious mishmash can't fully satisfy. A blend of gothic intrigue and Leave It to Beaver-style nostalgia, Lady in White lurches from wide-eyed terror to cutesiness and back again. But the corny elements never really gel with the disturbing ones. Sophomore writer/director Frank LaLoggia tries too hard to emulate coming-of-age classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and the contemporaneous Stand By Me. In the end, he merely undercuts his own main strength: the ability to evoke the atmospheric angst of youngsters lost in a world full of adults with the power to hurt them. The scenes involving the titular specter prove moody and affecting, suffused with a sadness that's genuinely touching. However, the well-meaning Italian stereotypes of Frankie's family and the long stretches of aw-shucks earnestness dissipate such momentum (especially in the longer director's cut). As the film builds toward its terrifying climax, it regains some of its footing. But then the operatic finale gets bungled by a profusion of obvious blue-screen shots and over-the-top thrills. If all of the good bits were at the beginning or at the end, Lady in White would be a better film. Instead, its quality varies wildly from scene to scene, resulting in a frustrating two-hour experience.