Freaky Fortnight!: Casper

Photo: amazon.com

CASPER (1995)

THE GIST: OK, so we all know Casper is a friendly ghost. In this film, roughly based on the cartoons and comic strips, Casper "lives" with his uncles -- Fatso, Stinkie and Stretch -- who haunt an old, abandoned mansion. Casper on the other hand just wants to be alive again and lead a life with friends. The film takes off as Carrigan's (Cathy Moriarty) father has just passed away and she's only inherited a worthless, empty mansion -- yes, the same one. Once she realizes the place is haunted, she hires the help of "ghost therapist" James Harvey (Bill Pullman) who strings his daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci), along on his seemingly insane business trip. But rather than getting shooed away by the ghastly trio as most other did, the Harveys stick around for longer, discovering a more "human" side to the spirits.

TRICK OR TREAT?: Undeniably a treat. It's sappy, it's childish, it really could be no other way.

WHY IT GETS US IN THE SPIRIT: The film brings a new feeling to Halloween, one that's not really about spooks and getting creeped out. In the simplest of ways, it's about human connections and friendship, and when you think about it, didn't you always go trick-or-treating with your little brother or older sister or best friends?

SCENE TO DIE FOR: An obvious choice might be the floating Halloween dance scene (see below), but instead, I'm going with the unexpected, cameo zip-through, when the ghoulish uncles inhabit James' body, causing him to see his reflection morphing from Clint Eastwood to Rodney Dangerfield to Mel Gibson. It's kind of a treat for parents or film buffs. (Also pay attention for an earlier appearance by a Ghostbuster.)

BEST COSTUME: Kat's school teacher dressed as a puffy, red lobster. Only in the movies.

SUGGESTED SWEET: Halloween Peeps. Not just because they come in ghosts, but because this film is just so cushy and almost-sickly sweet.

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