Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hocus Pocus

Jim and I were talking about Halloween movies and he brought up Hocus Pocus, a 1993 Disney film that I've always had a soft spot for. This is a great movie for the Halloween season because it takes place at Halloween and is full of Trick or Treaters, autumn leaves, the full moon, Halloween parties, and other such All Hallow's Eve imagery. It also has the advantage of sumptuous Disney production values. Beautiful sets, great costumes and top of the line (for 1993) special effects. I re-watched it last night.
The movie is about three Witches who were hung on Halloween in Salem 300 years earlier. Winifred Sanderson, the leader of the trio of sister witches (played by Bette Midler) manages to cast a last minute spell so that she and her sisters Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) can return from the dead.
Enter Max Dennison (Omri Katz) a California kid who's family has just moved to Salem. While out trick or treating with his younger sister Dani (a very young Thora Birch) Max unwittingly releases the three witches while trying to impress local girl Allison (Vinessa Shaw).
Now here's where the movie veers off into slightly creepy territory. The witches' spell only allows them to return to life for one night. In order to stay alive, they need the souls of children. A lot of children. In fact in the first five minutes of the film, the three sisters kill a little girl by quite literally sucking out her life force. To do this they use a spell from a book that is bound in human skin. They also curse a young man to live eternally as a black cat and poison another man, sew his mouth shut, and turn him into a zombie. And given comments the witches make as the movie progresses the sisters are apparently cannibals and enjoy eating children.
This may explain why the movie never found it's target audience in initial release. While ostensibly a comedy/adventure/musical/fantasy film, the children in jeopardy plot might have been a little strong for kids under eight. While the movie wasn't the flop a lot of articles claim (it grossed 45 million) it was far from a hit during its initial release. It has since become very popular on video and DVD.
Anyway, the witches are fun. Najimy is zany, Parker is sexy, and Midler chews the scenery like nobody's business. There are a lot of funny moments and the young members of the cast are good. I recommend this as a fun, slightly scary, family film, with a great Halloween vibe, but be aware there are some moments that might be a bit much for smaller children.

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