So I don't think I've mentioned it yet this week, but did you all know how much I loves me a good ghost story? And I was ready to have an 80s style ghostly good time with this flick, Lady in White, even though I didn't really know that much about it before seeing it. Not the most talked about movie out there but it seems to still have some pretty damn loyal followers, so I hope I don't inadvertently piss any of them off with this review.
While I did like this movie to a point, there are a few things that are amiss here. As the story is told from Frankie's point of view, the movie starts off very cute and seems as if it is more of a kid's movie. Frankie has a funny home life with his older brother Geno, his father, and his constantly bickering grandparents, so all of these earlier moments are quite entertaining to watch - Grandpa lighting his pants on fire and Frankie riding his bike into wet cement, for instance. All the actors here were wonderful, too. It seemed as if they really enjoyed playing their roles and took them seriously while still having fun with them. The movie as whole is similar to stuff like The Monster Squad, with all the childhood hijinks, so that definitely got me into it in the first third.
The murder mystery is actually not that hard to solve if you've watched enough of those kinds of movies. As soon as those two nice-guy, friends-of-the-family dudes show up, Phil and Tony, I was thinking, "Yup, the murderer is one of them." I wish they wouldn't make it so easy sometimes. But the actual reveal of the murderer, and therefore Frankie's devastating realization of who almost killed him, is a very good scene. It's quite suspenseful and a little disturbing, too, because we know what this guy has done to all these other children, and here's our young lovable Frankie, all alone with him, with the murderer also knowing that he's been found out.
In fact, there are perhaps too many effects in this movie. Then again, that might just be a personal preference. I can get rather picky and overly vocal about my ghost movies, and I know what I like and what I don't like - or at least, what works for me and what doesn't. I understand the use of more exaggerated effects in Lady in White, so it is more fantasy than scary, but I'm of the mind that the unseen is much more chilling and effective. The famous ghost is called the "Lady in White" so of course she's this huge, floating figure, with her billowy white nightgown constantly flowing all around her - the typical ghost image perhaps taken too much to the extreme.
Lady in White scared them a lot as a child, but that must just be a kid thing because I didn't see a single thing here that scared me. The only really creepy shot is when the Melissa-ghost is in Frankie's room one night (she's invisible here) and she's just singing and playing around with Frankie's things. She flips through his comics, goes through his drawers, puts on his slippers, rocks in his rocking chair and then BAM! The camera pans to the window where there's the Lady in White standing outside! That was a little unexpected, and I quite enjoy the unexpected so this was a great moment.
I understand that this is probably a movie that if you grew up watching it, you still love it to this day. I guess upon first viewing, I have mixed feelings about it. I'm a bit turned off by the dated effects (not a good enough excuse, I know, but I can't help it) and the story progresses far too slow, with too many characters and red herrings getting in the way. I do love the blend of the classic ghost story and the amusing fantasy world of children, all told from the point of view of a very capable child actor to boot. I suppose I'll have to let the movie simmer for a bit in my brain and then maybe give it another go around in a few weeks.