Experiment 626 (which may, or may not be Stitch's real name) is an event embarked on by the I'm With Geek Film Team. Film knowledge was unearthed, truths were found and a DVD exchange took place. These are the true life stories from that experiment...
To Hayley from Jo
Lady in White is a film from my childhood that geniunely sent chills down my spin. The film follows a prominent horror writer as he remembers his childhood. As a boy, Frankie witnesses and falls prey to a great evil. The experience puts him in contact with the spirit world where he tries to help a lost host. The film does not use impressive special effects or gore. It is chilling due to it's simplicity and tone. Set in an idyllic American town that has a dark past beneath it's white picket fence exterior. The film was not a great success nor is it well known, but there is something nostalgic in it's old fashioned horror. Not without flaws, I choose this for the experiment, to see if it only frightened me as a child.
Despite Jo's warnings to the contrary, from the first few minutes of The Lady in White, I assumed it would be a cheesy, Halloween-set kids romp from the late-80s/early-90s. As a huge fan of Hocus Pocus, I settled myself in for the fun. But I was wrong. Yes, it is cheesy, with kid protagonists, but The Lady in White has dark, terrible undertones.
It is the story of Frankie Scarlietti, played by future Brick star Lukas Haas. Frankie loves writing horror stories, even if he is easily terrified by the pranks of his brother, Gino. On Halloween, two bullies in Frankie's class lock him in the school classroom all night, where he witnesses the ghost of a young girl replaying her murder in that same spot 10 years earlier. The actual murderer turns up and tries to strangle him to death, and while on the brink of life, the ghost girl asks Frankie to help her find her mother, the Lady in White, who killed herself following her daughter's death. What follows is Frankie's journey to help his ghost friend, while also investigating with Vqino who was responsible for the string of murders a decade earlier.
On the surface, The Lady in White was a fun watch, not especially terrifying for the most part as an adult, but understandably scary for kids. As an adult watching this, there's more of a creeping unsettling nature to the whole experience, especially regarding some social commentary of the time period. Set in the 60s, the n-word is still in use, and there is explicit racism in the witch hunt for the killer. The innocent black janitor is initially arrested, and one policeman character actually says that this man is the perfect scapegoat for the unsolved killings just because he's black. It's a horrifying commentary on something that unfortunately does happen.
The film's soundtrack was typical of the time, full of comedy bassoon moments and creepy strings for the scary bits, but rather than being predictable, it was charming. It put me in mind of some of the films I loved as a child, as did some of the direction choices. It was fun, especially bits that could easily be mocked, like the special effects. They were particularly unbelievable in the ghost-flying scenes, but their inauthenticity actually made the film seem more authentic. It made it clear that there was a person behind this film, a filmmaker with passion and personality, a fact that is often sadly lost in this 3D, CGI world.
Despite my enjoyment, I couldn't actually finish The Lady in White. The problem for this is that I'm pyrophobic, and couldn't look at the fiery climax. I perhaps should have warned Jo of this fact in advance, but Wikipedia tells me that the ending was satisfying. Despite this, it was an excellent pick for me: fun and cheesy, but with something deeper. It's not a film I would have actively chosen to watch, but I'm glad I did, and I will again.