This interesting little film is the sort of voiced-over, nostalgic look back at the the ’50s that made A Christmas Story and The Wonder Years so popular, but with a ghostly twist. Oh, and a murder. Of a child. Plus a lynching. What a great decade!
The movie’s one big flashback, with Lukas Haas starring as the narrator, Frankie. One evening, Frankie gets locked in his elementary school classroom closet — a scary enough proposition as it is, but to top it off, he encounters a ghost in there. Seems a little white girl was murdered in there some time ago, and she won’t rest until Frankie finds out who done it, the pushy little broad.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the killer coincidentally returns that very night and almost gets Frankie too. The black janitor, Willie (Henry Harris), is arrested and put on trial as the child murderer. As the sheriff notes, “He’s the perfect scapegoat; he’s black.”
Meanwhile, Willie’s family is tormented by people who assume he’s guilty. And when he’s finally acquitted, well, townsfolk don’t take it so well. As the backdrop in one scene, a news report about James Meredith integrating the University of Mississippi is shown. Subtle? No. Effective? Mostly. The racism, violence and ghostly scares are jolting in what otherwise could be a kid’s movie — although as an adult, the effects are a bit dated, and the whodunit mystery works best if you’re under 12 years old or have stunted mental faculties.