Time to get a bit “Halloween-y” on the Arcade, as Hocus Pocus puts a spell on us!
THE INITIAL RELEASE (1993)
Released in 1993 Hocus Pocus, is a Halloween-themed fantasy/comedy film and the staple of many a child’s Halloween watching back then.
Directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, Dirty Dancing), Hocus Pocus tells the story of Max, a Halloween hating teenager, who has moved to Salem. When Max inadvertently resurrects the Sanderson Sisters, from their temporary death and must risk his life to protect his sister and defeat them with the help of the stereotypical school crush, a friendly zombie and an immortal black cat.
The film seen a modest return on investment in the box office, and was critically panned at the time of release. However, on home video is where the film really worked its magic. Like a lot of people my age, growing up in the 90’s meant a lot (and I mean a lot) of Disney movies and Hocus Pocus was no exception.
MY FULL EXPERIENCE (1993 – 2014)
While conducting a bit of research leading up to this review I’ve learned that this might not be to some people’s taste. I have to say though, that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy this film for a variety of reasons. The plot is fairly predictable with an attempt to stay relevant to it’s by adding a tweenage romance. Where the plot gets interesting is when you have an animatronic cat, a charming zombie and a trio of witches. Aside from that then you have the basic structure that keeps all kids’ attention; beginning equates to back-story of the cat and the motivations of the witches, middle – the angst and beginning of the protagonists role in the movie and end – justice for all.
The film is a wonderfully comical and charming tale with cast that are just magical in the roles – the three witches really do cast us in a spell thanks to the hilarious and almost frighteningly talented Bette Midler who plays the leader, Winifred, Sarah Jessica Parker as the dim-witted but attractive, Sarah and Kathy Najimy as the funny and perky Mary; and while the supporting cast offer some things in the way of comedy and some sarcasm it doesn’t really like a match (or a black candle… see what I did there!?) to the three Sandersons.
These three really make the movie for me with their individual uniqueness and complement each other well – and they can really walk in style!
All that being said, no scene can capture the joy of the film quite like its legendary “I Put A Spell On You” – a number that shifts the movie from being just a kids movie to something a bit more. We can’t help but enjoy the evil and double nature of Hocus Pocus – the subversive nature of something more.
The songs are quirky and demonstrate some of the characters strengths but it also demonstrates another level to this Disney movie that can only come with hindsight.
It isn’t just the songs that suggest the double nature of the film – Looking back on it now I’ve noticed that there are some weirdly sexual elements that might suggest that this movie was targeted to another audience at some stage. After all, I doubt children are looking at how low Sarah Jessica Parker’s top is! And at the age of watching this I thought virgin meant someone who bathed and didn’t wear make-up. Also the song about taking children away…freaked the heck out of me!
With the benefit of age, I can’t quite pin what it was that attracted me to this film but I imagine that it something to do with the very theme of Halloween, with all the colors and costumes anyone that knows me knows that Halloween is right up there for top holiday and Hocus Pocus celebrates it in style. I also am quite fond of musicals so the songs really kept my attention as a kid.
Like I said though, Hocus Pocus continues to be a staple of my Halloween tradition – especially now that I can appreciate all the angles. Exaggeration is the flavor of the day, with songs and extravagant performances and that’s why Hocus Pocus leaves an everlasting mark on my memory. It stands out from a host of other films because it embraces its silliness, and then goes the extra mile by making sure it’s done well!
It’s a film made purely for entertainment value, without any hidden meaning or posing. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and in doing so it stretches the imagination-those Sanderson Sisters really did put a spell on me!