When CASPER was released in 1995, no one thought it would carry the cult legacy it has today. The film did so-so at the box office and its PG rating confused audience expectations. Utilizing family friendly storytelling, Casper the Friendly Ghost’s first live-action adaptation would serve as a heart-felt and entertaining way to educate children about death and what comes after. CASPER is partly a silly kid’s film with an animated ghost trying to befriend mortals, but it’s also a depressing look into loss, grief, obsession, neglect, and the unwillingness to accept the reality of mortality.
However, there’s a certain aspect of CASPER that makes it the most fucked up ghost film, EVER.
Bill Pullman plays paranormal therapist James Harvey who has recently moved into a haunted manor in Maine with his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) while simultaneously trying to contact the spirit of his deceased wife. Upon moving into the haunted house, Dr. Harvey attempts to have therapy sessions with the three “mean” spirits, Stinkie, Stretch, and Fatso. The three uncles repay Harvey by convincing him they are in touch with his dead wife. Upon realizing these three are full of shit, Dr. Harvey joins the ghastly trio for a night on the town to avoid his problems and instead spends his time of drinking his life away. All the while, the three uncles are hoping that this mind deteriorating drunk will die so he can join their ghostly gang. In a drunken stupor, Dr. Harvey falls down a manhole and dies, leaving his daughter an orphan in a haunted house.
Upon seeing her father as a ghost, Casper the friendly ghost sacrifices his only chance at becoming a human again and allows James Harvey the chance of mortal existence through the use of the Lazarus machine, an invention created by Casper’s dad (a man who was institutionalized due to claims of his dead son haunting him) with the ability to bring the dead back to life. The ghost of James Harvey goes through the machine, transforms back to a human state, and the Harvey family has a dance party with their new ghastly brethren.
BUT WHAT ABOUT JAMES HARVEY’S DEAD BODY THAT’S STILL IN A FRICKING MANHOLE?!
The human figure we see of James Harvey at the end of the film isn’t his resurrected corpse, it’s a ghost given a human form. So while he’s dancing around and hanging out with his daughter, HIS ACTUAL BORN OF THIS EARTH BODY IS ROTTING AWAY IN SOME SEWER IN A FICTIONAL DOWNTOWN MAINE CITY STREET! Casper’s dad lost his damn mind after his son died and figured out a way to resurrect the dead through his Lazarus machine, which is already an extremely unhealthy way to mourn the loss of your child and accept that mortality is a thing, but let’s think for a minute and accept the logistics of his master plan. He was intending to bring back his son once he realized that his ghostly presence was hanging out around Whipstaff Manor, yeah? Okay. So had his plan worked, he would have brought back his lil’ baby Devon Sawa child…while the real child, the one that he changed as baby and taught how to ride a bike is sleeping in a mound of dirt six feet under. I’m sorry; I can’t get over how horribly depressing this logic is. I thought this was a kid’s movie.
“Can I keep you?” is starting to sound a lot more fucked up now, isn’t it?
*All Photos: CASPER (1995) Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment