Nostalgia is an interesting concept. It grants memories a pleasant and comfortable quality and tends to downplay the negative aspects.There is probably no era in American history steeped in more nostalgia than the 1960s. Supposedly, it was the pinnacle of American morals and integrity and life was just simpler back then. Everyone was patriotic and hardworking--nobody wanted for anything. Never mind the jingoism, sexism, and racism that ran rampant in the country, let's just focus on the nice parts, shall we? Director Frank LaLoggia's ghost story Lady in White attempts to shine the light on both aspects of that forgotten time and he does a great job with preserving both the beautiful and the ugly moments of that period.
Lady in White plays out like a combination of Norman Rockwell and the film Poltergeist (1982) in its idyllic setting of the town of Willowpoint Falls. We follow around a young boy named Frankie (Lukas Haas) who finds himself the victim of a prank by some of his schoolmates. They lock him into the cloakroom at his school and he ends up having to spend the night there (on Halloween night, no less). While in there, he witnesses a ghostly reenactment of the murder of a young girl and the narrative proceeds from there into a supernatural mystery of sorts.
This film straddles quite a few genres in its journey--it's a coming-of-age tale, a murder/mystery, and a ghost story all rolled into one. Russell Carpenter's cinematography is gorgeous and he captures the lush Autumn landscape and quiet neighborhoods perfectly. There are a few surreal sequences scattered throughout as well, and they give the film a dream-like quality that is interesting and different. There is a dichotomy between the what the town wants to portray and what is really going on under the surface. The janitor at the school, a black man named Willy (Henry Harris), gets implicated in the murders even though there isn't any physical evidence. The townspeople are happy to have a scapegoat available to them and the racism that permeated the '60s is brought to the forefront. LaLoggia balances these different themes perfectly and one never overpowers the other. Perception meets reality and the combination is explosive.
The music score is another superb thing about this film, and it was composed by Frank LaLoggia himself. It's orchestral and sweeping with a lovely main theme that weaves itself in and out of the film at different times. It does get foreboding when it needs to and during the first half of the film it's lilting and happy. Some of the characters hum or sing during the film, and it's creepy during the moments it is used. As for the special effects, they are starting to show their age a bit, but I always feel like practical effects age better and it's no different in this case. The effects are used in ingenious ways and only in a few parts do they look a bit cheesy. Really, it just adds to the charm of the film now and it's just a reminder of the time it was made.
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Video and Sound:
This release is 1080p high definition widescreen with a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is fantastic and I was very pleased with the upgrade over my old MGM DVD. All the colors are vivid and sharp and there is just the tiniest amount of film grain present in the presentation. For this review I watched the previously unreleased extended directors cut. I spot-checked the other versions, however, and they looks great as well. The audio tracks available are a DTS-HD Master 5.1 and one with commentary by Frank LaLoggia. This isn't a loud or bombastic film but the sound was clear and well used.
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