A Halloween movie review: ‘Hocus Pocus’

Alan Johnson

Before watching it for this article, the only thing I knew about “Hocus Pocus” was a rumor (which turned out to be false) that Tina Fey was going to remake it. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that this is an absolutely insane movie.

“Hocus Pocus” is the story of three sister witches from 1693, played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, who are accidentally resurrected by a group of teenagers in 1993. Not only is it set in 1993, but the movie also takes place in Salem, Mass., where the famous witch trials took place. It seems like the filmmakers intentionally reference this, but there is no mention of the witch trials, nor should there be in a kids movie. It was just an odd choice to put three “real” witches in the same town and place as the witch trials. Is Disney trying to sneak in a conspiracy theory about the Salem witch trials? I hope so.

In order to stay in 1993, the witches must take the life force of a child. I’m not sure what was happening in 1993, but I doubt a kid’s movie about child cannibalism would be acceptable in our day and age. Sarah Sanderson, played by Parker, is especially creepy in this respect. She says many lines such as, “Hang him on a hook and let me play with him,” or just “Let me play with him,” which just play to the audience as plain creepy. I know they are all child murderers, but Sarah Jessica Parker seemed more like a child molester.

Another risqué move by the filmmakers is the constant discussion about Max, the main teenager, and his virginity. It is integral to the story, because they needed a virgin to light their candle to be set free, but again, this is a kid’s movie so it’s really strange to focus so much on whether Max is sexually active.

The craziest scene in a movie filled with crazy scenes is when the sisters go to the town hall Halloween party. The witch sisters sing “I Put a Spell on You,” which forces the adults to continue dancing until they die. Bette Midler sings her heart out, but I couldn’t get over how strange the whole situation was. Just singing that song would put the exact spell that she wanted on the whole crowd? I didn’t buy it.

I could go on and on about the strange scenes in Hocus Pocus, like the exploding heads or pretty much every scene with the talking cat, but that wouldn’t be very helpful to anyone reading this. Had I seen this movie when I was 6 or 7 years old, I’m sure I would have loved it, in the same way I love “Flubber” and “The Muppets Movie.” If I looked back at those movies, perhaps I would find the same troubling and, in the case of “Hocus Pocus,” disturbing flaws and I would not like the movies that were so dear to me in my childhood. So, if you think “Hocus Pocus” is the best Halloween movie ever and you watch it every year, that’s great. Just don’t invite me over next Halloween to watch it.

Personal Rating: 2/5 stars