Tuesday, August 25

Some quick thoughts on Lady in White (1988)

(spoilers)

Don't you hate when a well-regarded film leaves you cold upon finally seeing it yourself? Enter Frank LaLoggia's Lady in White last night via Virgin Vision's VHS. I had heard its praises for years, but I went in expecting at least a decent ghost story. It delivered, but I'm afraid to say I barely felt any atmosphere and it certainly wasn't anything extraordinary beyond being a well-told ghostly period chiller.

The finesse of its spectral delights are delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. LaLoggia hammers away at important plot points repeatedly (really Frank, it's not a complex story) and his self-penned score overpowers the imagery on-screen with annoying frequency. The subplot involving the racial turmoil of the '60s and the wrongfully accused black janitor just seem there to help explain the philanthropistic tendencies of Frankie's father. This also helps aid the audience understand why he lends his hand to the struggling murderer at the conclusion.

I can't imagine children watching this, and not because it's frightening, but because it's nearly two hours. Actually the most frightening aspect is the assassination of the janitor, everything else is just so damn sugar-coated in wholesome '50s immigrant nuclear family nostalgia that it's tough for me to see how anyone could be spooked. If this scared you, how did you keep your brain from exploding during The Exorcist? From the off-and-on literary narration, it's obvious LaLoggia wanted his film to play like the reading of a grand ol' supernatural tale for the ages, but when it comes to the chills, it all most likely would have played better as just the literal reading of a grand ol' supernatural tale for the ages with your mind's eye providing the moving pictures.

Or maybe I'm jaded in my advanced age...or maybe it's because I watched these two greats prior to popping this tepid spookshow in?

Aye, good times...

As an aside, here's an interesting trailer from YouTube that appears to be some strange promotional reel for investors. All (well, most) of the actors are different, it plays out the entire story short form, and the shots are composed differently than the final feature. Hell, some of this is actually creepier.


2 comments:

Jay Amabile said...

I think this film works better to creep little kids out. I saw it when I was like 6 years old on TV and it was freeeeaky. I have it on dvd now and it holds up, but it's not as good as when I was a kid.

Jay Clarke said...

Ha, that's funny, I was just thinking of this movie. I recently saw Joe Dante's new flick The Hole and it reminded me of LIW, among others from that era.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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