Lady in White (1988)


The world looks different through a child eyes. Without the cynicism of age, the world is a vast expanse of possibilities and time is both meaningless and endless. Candy tastes sweeter, Santa Claus is real, and you’re an immortal, fearless ball of energy, filled with imagination and a zest for life that slowly depletes as you grow older.

Everything is amplified, because everything a child believes becomes truth. Fairies are real, aliens are real, ghosts are real, and monsters are incredibly real. Fear to a child is a living, breathing thing which has the power to shape their future both emotionally and psychologically, so profoundly that we all know a deeply, scarred adult that could have progressed so much better if not for the wounds of childhood.

Adults and the cruelty of their peers is the basis of our fears as children. Why don’t they want to play? Why do they ignore me? Why does daddy drink? Why does mommy tell me I’m not good enough? Innocence and perfect trust are things that everyone is born with, and we lose these things when someone breaks that trust, hurts us, and makes us fearful of the same thing happening again, or worse.

The only monsters in this world, for a child or adult, are human, and every one of us has to be taught that lesson sooner or later. It’s how we battle those monsters, that shapes the person that we become.

Frankie Scarlatti loves to write scary stories. He’s a sweet kid, recovering from the death of his mother, with a talent for writing, and he is in the first flush of puppy love with Mary Ellen from his class. On the day of his school Halloween party, his jealous school friends (and I’m using the term friends extremely loosely) lock him in the school, hoping he will be trapped there all weekend; and Frankie witnesses the replay of a decades old murder, becoming the star of his very own scary story, learning that adults are not infallible after all.

Lady in White is a beautifully crafted, old fashioned, ghost story, which has masterfully woven elements of thriller, tragedy, comedy and family friendly viewing, in a combination that creates a haunting and unforgettable piece of cinema.

I first saw this film as a child, and remember being both entranced and terrified with Frankie on every step of his journey; though watching it again as an adult has changed my perception of the film entirely, without detracting from the experience. As a child, I saw with a child’s eyes, a basic ghost story, where a young child solves a murder; while as an adult I saw a tale of small town prejudice, family, paedophilia, and the insidious manipulation, and gradual loss of innocence.

There isn’t the sort of blood and guts you’d expect from a typical horror, and some of the special effects have aged badly, but this makes it all the more charming. Lukas Haas is brilliant as the young Frankie, and there is a creeping terror and bitter sweetness, that makes this stand the test of time against more showy, gorier films; with a strong, emotive script, and a brilliant cast of actors, young and old.

This is in my all time top ten favourite films of any genre, and could not recommend it enough. Family friendly, and criminally overlooked, Lady in White is eighties gold, that is perfect for Slouchy Sunday afternoons or Friday Night Frights, and will leave you singing the creepy killer’s favourite song for days after the credits have rolled.

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This entry was posted in 80's horror, critique, Eighties Horror, fiction, film and media, ghost story, murder, opinion, Serial Killers, supernatural horror, thriller, Twist ending, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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