For Criterion Consideration: Frank LaLoggia’s Lady In White

I’ve been absent from these for quite awhile and luckily our very own Joshua Brunsting has been killing it, primarily with some choice picks, especially one that I was going to pick in Don’t Look Now (luckily Mr. Brunsting did an amazing job as he usually does, so I curtsy your way). You can read that right here. Considering the month is October and we here at CriterionCast love a good horror film, I’ve been going through tons of films that I deem worthy of that spot in the collection. A film that most people might have forgotten perhaps. So right away that strikes out George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (which does deserve a place). I’d rather go to a film that most might have glanced over when it first came out. And in the 26 years since it came out, many have sadly forgotten. I’m looking at 1988’s Lady in White, written and directed by Frank LaLoggia.

Based on the story of The White Lady, a female ghost who is reportedly seen in rural areas, especially where a tragedy has occurred, Lady In White is a story told in flashback from the point of view of Franklin “Frankie” Scarlatti on his way back to his hometown of Willowpoint Falls. We center in on 9 year old Frankie (Lukas Haas), who is tricked by a pair of bullies into the school’s cloakroom where he witnesses a girl’s ghost being murdered and then being attacked by a dark figure himself. As he loses consciousness, the girl’s ghost asks him for help to find her mother. His father finds him, revives him and rushes him to the hospital while the police find the school janitor Willy drunk in the basement, arresting him in regards to the attack.

Frankie’s brother Geno brings him a newspaper article which tells of the murder, with 11 other murders linked to a serial killer. We also get a name to the ghost he spoke to, Melissa Ann Montgomery, who continues to haunt him throughout but they become bonded as friends, trying to get to the bottom of it. It becomes almost a detective story, where Frankie braves going back to the cloakroom to investigate further to help Melissa, finding her hairclip and an old class ring. He comes to the realization that whoever’s ring that was, is the killer. He confides in family friend Phil (Len Cariou), who has known Frankie’s dad Angelo (Alex Rocco) for years. As this is going on, the case against Willy isn’t going well at all because there really is no case at all.

The film has twists and turns, creepy imagery, violence out of nowhere against children, some stellar child acting (especially from Lukas Haas) and one of the most haunting scenes using the song “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking” in whistle form that I’ve ever heard. I feel like this film has been sadly been forgotten and put aside for flashier horror films, but this film has influenced The Sixth Sense and The Others, two hugely popular ghost stories that came out a decade or more later.

The film was already put out on DVD by MGM, which Criterion has been getting some fantastic films from to put out, which means this one might be a likely candidate for the collection. Coming out in 2005, the DVD had roughly 36 minutes of deleted footage and commentary with LaLoggia, which would be perfect to be added back onto this release. Would also love some history behind the story of the White Lady as well, which would make a great urban myth documentary. A featurette on the song “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking”, sung most famously by Bing Crosby, which is an important plot point through the film, would also be amazing. There are two versions of the film, which would be essential to the release as well. Let’s bring Lukas Haas to the release as well, to speak about how the film helped springboard his career, especially since he garnered the most positive of the critical praise from the film.

Criterion, are you listening? You already have some wonderful ghost stories within the collection so why not one more fantastic forgotten cult favorite? This goes great with films like Carnival of Souls, Kuroneko, etc, and considering this is loosely based on a story throughout America’s urban consciousness, and feel like Criterion strives to bring these sort of films to the cinephiles out there. It’s a great film that needs that extra bit of love it deserves. If you haven’t watched the film, please do as soon as you can, especially this time of year. And keep checking back here for more spooky entries in our For Criterion Consideration series.