Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the number of new movies and trying to pick just one to see that I just choose an old one I haven’t seen yet. With Halloween approaching, I ended up watching the 1993 Disney cult classic, “Hocus Pocus.” Don’t worry, I have seen this film. I’ve just never watched it critically.
It’s 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. One morning, Thackery Binx awakes to find his sister, Emily, missing from her bed. He runs outside to find her being led into the forest by a cloaked figure. Thackery runs off after the two, and is led to the house of the Sanderson sisters, three witches who plan to suck the lives out of children to achieve immortal life. They’re starting with Emily.
Thackery attempts to stop them, but is overtaken by them and must watch helplessly as his sister dies. As the sisters Winnie, Mary and Sarah revel in their new youth, an injured Thackery insults them, saying no number of children would make them beautiful. As punishment, the sisters grant him immortality so he will live forever with his guilt…in the form of a cat. The sisters’ house is then ambushed, and they are hanged for their crimes, but not before they promise to return someday.
Fast forward 300 years to 1993, and now we follow the life of teenager Max Dennison. Max’s family recently moved to Salem from California and is struggling to get used to his new life. He got rejected by the most popular girl in school, Allison, some bullies stole his shoes and now he must take his little sister, Dani, trick-or-treating.
These are the least of Max’s troubles. Trying to impress Allison, Max lights the black flame candle in the Sanderson sisters’ house and brings the Sanderson sisters back to life. With the help of talking cat Thackery Binx, Max, Allison and Dani must find a way to defeat the Sanderson sisters once and for all.
“Hocus Pocus” is a movie that focuses heavily on its script. The camerawork isn’t super fancy and the mise-en-scene of the shot compositions are simple. The story is so solid, though, that I am happy they chose to film it simply. You don’t need to overcomplicate a good thing!
Since “Hocus Pocus” is so centered on its script, it’s important that the performances don’t fall short of it. I’m happy to say that did not happen in this film. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker make up the iconic Sanderson witches, Winnie, Mary and Sarah, respectively. They’re funny and over-the-top, but all the while creepy.
Omri Katz represented all the great things about growing up in the 90s in his performance as Max. Thora Birch’s performance of Dani is everything I want to accomplish as a little sister myself. However, my favorite character by far was Thackery Binx. Portrayed by Sean Murray in human form and voiced by James Marsden (who you might remember as the voice of Max Goof!) in cat form, I kind of wish he was the main protagonist. Imagine how interesting it would’ve been if the film followed him a bit into his 300 years of waiting to defeat the Sanderson sisters.
All that aside, Marsden’s voice performance was compelling, but still able to be humorous at times. Murray in the closing scene killed me and his promise to Dani was too cute! I cried, I’ll admit it.
In the end, I would say that “Hocus Pocus” is the Halloween film we need. With every slasher flick having seven sequels or on its third reboot, it’s nice to have one good film like this available in the Halloween genre.
Your family’s going to love it. Your friends are going to love it and your cat is most definitely going to like it. With few tricks in store, “Hocus Pocus” is nothing but a treat this All Hallows’ Eve season.