'Lady in White,' written and directed by Frank LaLoggia, manages to combine the eery and ordinary in a fanciful and melancholy ghost tale.
The ghost story is told from a 10-year-old's point of view, and not since 'E.T.' has a director so poignantly captured the fears, lonliness and bravery of a child up against the cruelty of an adult world.
Lukas Haas, whose wide-eyed, expressive face was last seen in the thriller 'Witness,' stars as the child who finds himself on a mission to reunite a little-girl ghost and her mother, both victims of a tragedy about the same time Haas's character, Frankie, is born.
What makes this ghost-murder mystery so eery is that it has as its core both the real and imagined fears of all of us as children. Who can't remember at least one ghost myth faithfully rendered each Halloween -- and never quite proved or disproved. Adding to Frankie's susceptability to the horrors of the ghost tale is his own loss of a mother.
Shot in a picturesque upstate New York town of Lyons, the setting of the ghost tale is tranquil and orderly, belying the undercurrent of horror and murder that lies behind the peaceful exterior.
Little Frankie finds himself the object of a prank by his two school chums, and very nearly the victim of a child murderer. During one scary evening, Frankie discovers the clues to the series of children's murders that have stumped the local police, and takes it upon himself to find the real killer.
'Lady in White,' within this ghost and murder story format, is set in 1962, a time of loss of innocence for the country as well. A man arrested for the child killings after Frankie's assault turns out to mirror the turmoil in race relations that is rocking the country.
How LaLoggia manages to balance a social conscience, a childlike innocence and no small amount of downright scary moments is perhaps the real mystery of 'Lady in White.' But like the ghost tales we remember so vividly from our youth, how they got started seems far less important than the fact that they doggedly live on as part of our imagination - even as adults.
And LaLoggia has given vivid image to these long ago imaginations.
'Lady in White' is also aided by fine supporting roles from Alex Rocco, as the little boy's father, Len Cariou, as the trusted family friend, Jason Presson, as Frankie's older brother, Geno, and Katherine Helmond, as a crazed woman of the village whose secrets of the past help solve a long-ago murder.
This film is rated PG-13. The movie contains scenes of violence.