Grab your witches’ broom, spell book, and put Sarah Jessica Parker singing “Come, Little Children” and Bette Midler singing “I Put A Spell On You” on repeat because it’s time to talk about a movie that earned little commercial success when it was released but turned into a cult classic for the spooky season.
Halloween is arguably the best time of the year. Not too hot, not too cold. You can drink hot chocolate, watch the leaves change, dress up in crazy costumes or dress your pet in crazy costumes, and have an excuse to eat tons of candy. The best part about Halloween, however, is the movies. For this edition of our October movie series here at Nerds and Beyond, I will be talking about the best Halloween movie to ever exist: Hocus Pocus.
Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the wicked Sanderson Sisters, Winnifred, Sarah, and Mary, from the 17th Century, who get brought back to life on one Halloween night in the 90s by a virgin who lit the infamous “Black Flame Candle.” Max, played by Omri Katz, is new to the town of Salem, Massachusetts after moving with his family from Los Angeles. He doesn’t believe in the whole “Sanderson Sisters” and witches story. But while taking his little sister, Dani (Thora Birch), trick-or-treating, they go to Max’s crush and classmate Allison’s (Vinessa Shaw) house as their next stop. Allison tells them there used to be a Sanderson Sisters museum that her mom ran, but they shut it down because “a lot of spooky things happened there.” They go to the house, and Max lights the Black Flame Candle, saying, “It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus,” the sisters come back, and the entire night, they try to keep the sisters from sucking the souls out of the children of Salem with help from a cat who was cursed and a zombie who came back to life.
At one point, they all go to a Halloween party at City Hall, where Max, Dani, and Allison try to warn the adults that their children are in danger, including Max and Dani’s parents, only to be interrupted by Winnifred, who belts out an incredible rendition of “I Put A Spell On You,” evidently putting a spell on the adults to “dance until you die.” That scene might be the most iconic in the entire film, but that’s just me. I won’t tell you how it ends just in case you are one of the few who haven’t seen it, but I will say that there’s a false ending where you think everything is fine, someone gets kidnapped, someone almost dies, and then there’s the real ending.
This movie came out in July of 1993. A Halloween movie came out in the summer, completely bombed at the box office, only to turn into a cult classic, an icon, and a must-watch for every spooky season. On Freeform’s 31 Nights of Halloween, they are showing it at least 30 times, with a marathon on Halloween. Last year, they held a bash to celebrate the 25th anniversary.
There are a lot of reasons to love Hocus Pocus. This movie came out four years before I was even born. There are very few shows and movies I distinctly remember watching for the first time. Hocus Pocus is not one of those movies. It seems like a bad thing, but to me, it’s not. I feel like this movie has always been part of my life. I don’t remember not watching it every year. I have to watch it at least a few times every October. It’s not the Halloween season until I watch Hocus Pocus and hear the relatable lines. Whether it’s Winnifred saying that a glorious morning makes her sick or when Billy tells her to go to Hell, in which she replies she has, and it’s lovely. Or possibly seeing Thackery’s close bond with Max, Dani, and Allison. And yes, it’s Thackery. Not Zachary.
Fun fact: Hocus Pocus was initially supposed to be a Disney Channel Original Movie. Yup. It’s hard to imagine a movie that involves a virgin lighting a candle and bringing back three witches who want to suck the souls out of children was originally supposed to be a DCOM. The film only made $39.5 million domestically on a $28 million budget. Since then, it’s become a Halloween must. Also, it should be pointed out that recent Disney Legend honoree Kenny Ortega, who brought the High School Musical and Disney Descendants franchises to life along with multiple other movies, directed Hocus Pocus. Another important thing to point out is that the cast still remains very close to this day.
There are very few people I know who have never seen Hocus Pocus. If you’re one of those, here’s my advice: Try to catch one of the many showings of the movie on Freeform. No other network plays Hocus Pocus as much as Freeform. Also, if you ever go to Walt Disney World in Orlando in the fall, catch the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular part of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.
WE CAN’T WAIT. 🎃 pic.twitter.com/lmsf39Ofq0
— Freeform's 31 Nights of Halloween (@31Nights) September 30, 2019
I could go on and on and on about why Hocus Pocus is the greatest Halloween movie of all time and why I love it so much, but if I did, we’d be here all day. So I will leave you with this: “It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus!” Don’t light any Black Flame Candles come October 31, please.