Casper’s Halloween Special (1979)

I don’t know how Casper left this mortal coil and became a ghost. The death of a child is always a tragedy and any circumstances that lead to poor Casper the human boy dying are undoubtedly heartbreaking. As a boy, I am sure he was the love of his parent’s life and the passing of such a sweet, gentle soul left them shattered. As a ghost though, Casper is such a simpleton, you wonder if somehow whatever process that allowed to him attain his ethereal form didn’t account for brain damage at the time of his death.

Casper’s Halloween Special is only 22 minutes long but Casper packs so much fail into that brief time that you begin to wonder if that is truly his supernatural power and not being able to fly and vanish at will. Time and again Casper not only lets himself down, but also the group of trick or treating orphans he has befriended, forever allowing himself to be captured by his prankster ghost pals who don’t want him to trick or treat. Even worse, when he promises the orphans that “he’s got this” whenever his pals threaten to disrupt trick or treating, Casper, true to his nature, is a ghost and nowhere to be found.

It’s Halloween and Casper is whining about wanting to be real boy and deciding that this is the one night he can go out and be seen as a regular kid since everyone will wearing costumes. Not a bad plan, but then why does Casper put a mask and ball cap on his head? What normal kid would dress up like a ghost and then top it off with his favorite lid? So disappointed that Casper didn’t go full douche bag and put on a sweater, too.

Casper apparently lives in his haunted house with four roommates – two other ghosts, a witch and a cat. Watching his crew relentlessly tease and bully him doesn’t make you feel sorry for Casper as the story probably intended because he never stands up to them. Even the climax of the show doesn’t involve Casper finding enough self worth to stop passively accepting their cruel antics and show that bullying is wrong, but instead relies on one of the other ghosts feeling guilty that Casper is so demoralized that he’s just freaking given up on Halloween altogether!

Incredibly though, Casper isn’t even expected to carry all of the syrupy sweet hurt this fleeting special inflicts on the viewer! He’s ably abetted in this by the breathtakingly cliched group of orphans. Living in the town orphanage, the kindly old man who runs it informs them there isn’t any money for kick ass costumes and just gives them domino masks and sacks for their treats. Orphans, as we all know, are totally acclimated to a life of deprivation and they cheerfully accept this. (Just to make sure we get how downtrodden these poor waifs are, their clothes are full of patches.)

Proving that Casper and the orphans live in the absolute worst town in America, when the orphans roll up on a rich person’s house, they aren’t allowed to trick or treat because of how poor they are and are told to go back to their neighborhood! (Also totally unrealistic because you always go to the rich neighborhoods for the best candy and if they don’t come across they’re going to be stepping on flaming bags of dog shit as they walk out of the house to clean the eggs off their BMW and pull the toilet paper off their McMansion.)

Things only get worse for the orphans when they let Casper join them since his deranged roommates are following him all over town sabotaging every stop he makes. The orphans get blamed for their pranks (taking all the candy, a dog rampaging through a home) and the orphanage director is called who tells the kids to get back to the orphanage. Casper lamely tries to take the blame on their behalf (and let’s be honest – it is pretty much totally his fault), but to no avail.

Naturally it all ends with the kids getting awesome costumes and lots of candy once one of the pranksters intervenes to save the day, thus proving that if you just accept bullying and your crappy lot in life, you might get lucky and have a bully who suddenly adopts an entirely different personality and fixes everything.

A frustrating and joyless experience, Casper’s Halloween Special is a succession of dull and repetitive scenes of Casper being picked on and the orphans being mistreated with a nonsensical payoff where the adults suddenly listen to Casper’s ghost friend about what’s going on and even more fantastical,  the mean rich people just decided to buy fancy costumes for the orphans they were turning their nose up at the entire night.

Casper seems like a natural for a Halloween special but the decidedly unsympathetic characters and lack of imagination on display won’t have you revisiting it year after year. Just for good measure, a couple of terrible songs are tossed in, the cartoon equivalent of putting a razor blade in an already rotten and worm-ridden caramel apple.

© 2018 MonsterHunter

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