This October, we’re fusing our annual Halloween Countdown with the Weekend Reviews. We’ve unearthed five old, seasonal and scary films and they’ll be reviewed over the next four weekends…. And on Halloween itself.

We begin with the low-budget, low-key thriller that won the 1977 Saturn Awards for best actress (Jodie Foster) and best horror movie, and finally crept onto DVD in 2005.

The story opens Halloween night in a small New England town….

Title: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Available from Amazon.com

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Written by Laird Koenig,

Directed by Nicholas Gessner.

Cast:

Jodie Foster as Rynn

Martin Sheen as Frank Hallet

Alexis Smith as Mrs. Hallet

Scott Jacoby as Mario

Mort Shuman as Miglioriti

Premise:

A thirteen-year-old girl and her mysterious, reclusive father move into a small town. Both townsfolk and audience begin to suspect she hides some sinister secret. The suspicious include a busybody landlady and her emotionally disturbed son.

High Point:

Many horror films feature teenagers, but few prove so teen-positive (controversial subject matter notwithstanding). Rynn and new friend Mario have been written and portrayed as competent and thoughtful human beings. Foster, barely in her teens at that point, appears in virtually every scene, and proves more than equal to her adult costars.

Low Point:

One aspect of this film has dated badly: the score. The background music belongs in a period cop show.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. Koenig adapted the script from his own novel. It’s a fairly original take on teens, old houses, and mysterious secrets.

Story: 5/6. More than anything, the film resembles a taut, suspenseful play.1 We see few characters and fewer sets, but the performances and plot twists keep us interested.

Effects: 4/6. The film has no real special effects, but certain scenes have been effectively staged so that we see what the director wants us to believe– at least the first time through.

Acting. 6/6.

Production: 5/6. The filmmakers managed well with very little budget.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Overall: 5/6.

In total, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane receives a score of 30/42.

1. The author later adapted the story for stage.

Additional Comments

In order to maintain a PG rating, the U.S. version of this film excised one instance of the f-word and a brief nude shot. Television, in the past, has broadcast this version. The unbowdlerized Canadian/European release has been selected for DVD. The 70s were a different time; Gessner reportedly asked Foster to appear nude. She declined, and her older sister appears very briefly as her body double.

Halloween Countdown

Oct. 13: The Golem
Oct. 20: The Car
Oct. 27: Them
Oct. 31: ???