If you are a 90s kid, chances are you grew up watching Hocus Pocus every Halloween. Even though this movie is now over 20 years old, (curse you progression of time) it still stands up as one of the best Halloween movies around. Hocus Pocus is a delightful blend of the silly, campy and the downright scary. Scary, at least, if you’re a 7 year old, like I was when it came out. I used to await with eager anticipation that day every year in late October when it would come on the air.
If you are not familiar with the plot, it goes a little something like this. Back in the colonial days of Salem, the Sanderson sisters were a trio of witches that terrorized the townsfolk and lured the village children away to their deaths. The sisters consumed the children’s life essences to become young and beautiful (like you do). A young boy from the town, named Zachary Binx, confronts the witches in an attempt to save his younger sister. Though he succeeds in getting the witches captured, he fails to save his sister. As punishment for crossing the witches, he is cursed into an immortal life, trapped in the form of a black cat.
“His punishment shall not be to die, but to live forever with his guilt.
Twist the bones, and bend the back.
Trim him of his baby fat.
Give him fur, black as black Just…Like…This.”
As the witches are about to hang in the town square, they cast a spell that will allow them to return from the dead when a virgin lights a black flame candle on All Hallows Eve. Flash forward to 1993 when a young teen named Max sneaks into the old Sanderson house and lights the candle. Why? To impress a girl, of course. Sounds like a great kids movie, right? I must admit as just a wee lass there were scenes of this movie that outright scared me, such as the raising of Billy the Zombie. What’s great about this movie, though, is its balance. For every scary scene, there is a humorous one. It is scary enough to give kids a little fright, but not so much to give them nightmares. I am a big fan of stories that don’t play with the kid gloves, anyway. It makes for a more convincing plot, and 90s Disney wasn’t as afraid to go there and get a little dark.
Yes, there are silly scenes, such as the scene in which the Sanderson sisters think that the pavement is a river, or when they are fooled by the “burning rain of death” (a sprinkler), but they are no idle threat. That’s what makes them such convincing villains. They aren’t just going to turn you into frogs. They kill people. They kill children (and with a certain level of glee, I might add). In fact, Billy the Zombie, was once a lover of Winifred’s whom she poisoned for cheating on her with her sister, Sarah. After he died she sewed his lips shut with a dull needle. Why mutilate his corpse, you may ask? So that he couldn’t tell his secrets even in death, of course (yep, kids movie). She also curses all the parents in town to “dance until they die” and tells Sarah to lure the children saying, “Bring the little brats to die.” Basically they are bad-ass witches, who have no qualms with bringing about your demise, (when they aren’t busy mistakenly worshiping a random middle aged man costumed as Satan, of course).
Seeing that Bette Midler played Winifred, you can also expect a song or two, and Hocus Pocus has a few brief musical numbers. Her version of “I Put a Spell on You” remains my favorite version to this day. Sarah Jessica Parker’s song to lure children is beautiful and eerie, and Kathy Najimy (Mary) is always awesome. With all this awesome witchy action, the hilarious scenes, and of course, a sweet talking black cat, this could possibly be one of the best Halloween movies of all time. Thanks to this movie, you will still catch me running around chanting “amok amok amok” or singing “a dead man’s toe, and a dead man’s toe” pretty much at any time of the year. Yes, it is a little dated now, and yes, some of it will make you shake your head and lament the 90s cheese, but this classic is worth adding to your Halloween movie rotation.
Fun fact: I asked my husband if we could name our black cat Binx. He said no.