US movie (1988). Goldwyn/New Sky. Pr Frank LaLoggia, Andrew G La Marca. Exec pr Charles M LaLoggia, Cliff Payne. Dir Frank LaLoggia. Vfx Ernest D Farino, Gene Warren Jr. Screenplay LaLoggia. Starring Len Cariou (Phil), Lukas Haas (Frankie), Henry Harris (Willie), Katherine Helmond (Amanda Harper), Joelle Jacobi (Melissa), Jason Presson (Geno), Alex Rocco (Angelo). 113 mins. Colour.
Halloween 1962 in small town Willowpoint Falls. 10-year-old Frankie, locked by pranksters in the school cloakroom overnight, sees the Ghost of a little girl, Melissa, reenact her murder; the murderer returns in real life to try to recover his dropped graduation ring from a grille and attacks Frankie, who has a near-death vision in which Melissa begs help finding her mother. A scapegoat is accused of being the Serial Killer of 11 children – of which Melissa, the first, was found near a cliff site haunted by the spectral Lady in White, the ghost of her mother, who threw herself from the cliff on the child's death. Frankie, regularly visited by Melissa's ghost, regains the ring. Exploring the Lady in White's house, he finds her perfectly preserved bedroom and encounters "the ghost" – actually mad local recluse Miss Harper, Melissa's aunt. Finally Frankie discovers the killer is his foster-uncle Phil, from whose clutches he is saved by first Miss Harper and then the Lady in White herself, who thereby earns reunion with her daughter.
Thanks in good measure to Haas (events are seen largely through Frankie's eyes) and Helmond, and to its Ray Bradbury/Thomas Tryon-like evocation of small-town childhood, LIW survives several dreary selfconscious emulations of Steven Spielberg, patchy spfx and occasionally heavy-handed direction as a compelling and genuinely moving Ghost Story: what makes it exceptional is the sense that there are real griefs and real passions amid the melodrama. [JG]