As the Starbucks menu or any given Target aisle would indicate, the fall season is once again upon us, which means beautiful foliage, cozy sweater weather, and all the pumpkin-spiced lattes you can handle. It also marks the time of year for Halloween movies to make a comeback in popularity. (Though, if you’re the type of household that opts to watch spooky flicks all year round, respect.) And while I’m typically the first to break out all the usual suspects of family-friendly Halloween content, there’s one Halloween movie I’d prefer to keep out of the rotation this year. Though it was one of my all-time favorites to see as a kid, a recent viewing proved that watching Casper feels different now that I’m a mother.
Now, let me start by admitting that 90% of Casper is downright hilarious and perfectly entertaining for kids and adults alike. Who wouldn’t enjoy some PG-rated ghostly hijinks starring the likes of Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman as the heartwarming father-daughter duo? (And Devon Sawa as Human Casper? Oh, how I had swooned!)
Yes, as a kid, I couldn’t get enough of this film, and I’m sure that one day my son will come to love it as well — if he ever gets out of this Blippi and Daniel Tiger phase we’re currently stuck in. But while the movie isn’t scary in the traditional sense, one scene left me gripped in fear the last time I watched it.
This Hits Different
I’m referring, of course, to what is ultimately the saddest part of the story: Casper recounting how he died — a subject that had never been broached before. Finding his old sled up in the attic triggers a memory in Casper about the day he got it, which he poignantly shares with Kat.
“One morning, I came down for breakfast, and there it was, just for me, for no reason at all,” Casper recalls. “I took it out, went sledding all day. And my dad said, ‘That’s enough.’ But I couldn’t stop; I was having so much fun. It got late, got dark, got cold… and I got sick. My dad got sad.” He then revealed the unfinished business that made him become a ghost instead of moving on: “I didn’t go where I was supposed to go. I just stayed behind so my dad wouldn’t be lonely.”
*CRIES IN MOM*
Growing up, I always thought this scene was sad, sure. But now I can’t watch it without my eyes instantly filling up with tears. It makes me think of my own son and how devastated I would be if something happened to him. I think about the heartbreak Casper’s father must’ve gone through to lose his child, who was so young and had so much life still to live. I also think about Casper and how difficult it must’ve been for him to grapple with what had happened and see his dad so sad as a result — enough to make him not move on because he selflessly didn’t want to leave his dad alone.
The thought of a child having to make that kind of decision and go through that kind of pain, loss, and loneliness, yet still manage to be so kind to others? My mom instincts go into overdrive, and I just want to give that fictional form of ectoplasm a giant mama bear hug.
Look, I know I won’t be able to avoid watching this Halloween classic in the years to come, and honestly, part of me doesn’t want to. It’s a great film. From now on, though, I’ll need to emotionally prepare myself before a viewing — and make sure we’re stocked up on tissues.