Monday, October 11, 2021


This weekend our township had a movie in the park, where for free you can set up a chair or blanket and watch a movie under the stars. It was a great night, and for this last movie of the season they showed 1993's Hocus Pocus. The film directed by Kenny Ortega and written by Neil Cuthbert and Mick Garris. The film follows a villainous comedic trio of witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenage boy (Omri Katz) in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night.

The film was released in the United States on July 16, 1993, by Walt Disney Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from film critics at the time of its release. It was not a critical or commercial success upon its release, possibly losing Disney around $16.5 million during its theatrical run. However, largely through many annual airings on Disney Channel and Freeform (formerly ABC Family) all throughout the month of October, Hocus Pocus has been rediscovered by audiences, resulting in a yearly spike in home video sales of the film every Halloween season.The annual celebration of Halloween has helped make the film a cult classic among Americans born in the 1980s and early 1990s.

On October 31, 1693, in Salem, Massachusetts, Thackery Binx witnesses his little sister, Emily, being whisked away to the woods by the Sanderson sisters, three witches named Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. At their cottage, the witches cast a spell on Emily to absorb her youth and regain their own, killing her in the process. Thackery confronts the witches, but is transformed into a black cat cursed to live forever with his guilt for not saving Emily. Suddenly, the townsfolk, led by Thackery's friend, Elijah, and Binx's father, arrest the sisters and sentence them to be hanged for the murder of Thackery and Emily. Before their execution, Winifred casts a spell that will resurrect the sisters during a full moon on All Hallows' Eve when any virgin lights the Black Flame Candle. Thackery decides to guard the cottage to ensure no one summons the witches.

Three centuries later, on October 31, 1993, Max Dennison is feeling unsettled from his family's sudden move from Los Angeles, California, to Salem. On Halloween, Max takes his younger sister Dani out trick-or-treating, where they meet Max's new crush Allison. In an effort to impress Allison, Max invites her to show him the Sanderson house to convince him the witches were real.

Inside the Sanderson cottage, now a former museum, Max lights the Black Flame Candle and inadvertently resurrects the witches due to his virginity. The witches attempt to suck the soul of Dani, but Max comes to her rescue. Escaping, Max steals Winifred's spellbook (grimoire) on advice from Thackery, who now goes by his last name of Binx. He takes the group to an old cemetery (as witches can't step foot on hallowed ground) where he shows them the graves of his sister and Billy Butcherson, who was once Winifred's lover. But when she caught him making out with Sarah, she poisoned him and sewed his mouth shut so that he couldn't tell her secrets even in death. The witches eventually catch up with them and Winifred raises Billy Butcherson as a zombie to chase them on foot.

The witches try to acclimate to the 20th century, but are horrified when they discover Halloween has become a festival of disguises. They pursue the children across town using Mary's enhanced sense of smell. Winifred also reveals that the spell that brought them back only works on Halloween and unless they can suck the life out of one child, they'll turn to dust when the sun rises. Max, Dani, and Allison find their parents at the City Hall Halloween party, where Winifred enchants the partygoers to dance until they die. At Jacob Bailey High School, the children trap the witches in a kiln to burn them alive. While the children are celebrating, the witches' curse revives them again.

Not realizing the witches have survived, Max and Allison open the spellbook intending to reverse the spell on Binx. The open spellbook reveals the location of the group, and the witches track them down, kidnap Dani and Binx, and recover the spellbook. Sarah uses her siren-like song to entice Salem's children, luring them to the Sanderson cottage. Max and Allison free Dani and Binx by tricking the witches into believing that sunrise was an hour early. Thinking that they are done for, the witches panic and pass out, allowing Max, Dani, Allison, and Binx to escape.

Back at the cemetery, the group is ambushed by Billy who then takes Max's knife, cuts open his stitched up mouth, and insults Winifred, therefore joining Max, Allison, Dani and Binx against the witches. The witches attack, and Winifred attempts to use the last vial of potion to suck the soul from Dani. Binx leaps on Winifred and knocks the potion out of her hand. Max drinks the potion, forcing the witches to take him instead of Dani. The sun starts to rise just as Winifred is about to finish draining Max's life force; in the ensuing struggle, Allison, Dani, and Billy fend off Mary and Sarah, and Max and Winifred fall onto the hallowed ground in the cemetery, causing Winifred to turn into stone. As the sun finishes rising above the horizon, Mary and Sarah are disintegrated into dust along with Winifred's stone body.

With the witches gone, Max, Dani, and Allison say goodbye to Billy, as he returns to his grave. Binx finally dies, freeing his soul. Appearing as a spirit, Binx thanks the group for their help and bids farewell to them as he is reunited with the spirit of Emily.

The exhausted partygoers, including Max and Dani's parents, oblivious to their enchantment, are freed when the spell is broken. Meanwhile, at the Sanderson's cottage, Ice and Jay, who previously tormented Max and Dani, remain imprisoned in cages and sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to pass the time. Winnie's spell book is seen opening its eye, revealing it is still alive and the witches could possibly return again.

My children have each seen the movie about three times now, and I was afraid this latest viewing would bore them, but they really enjoyed the film again. My son and I both jumped at the same time when Sarah Jessica Parker jumped up from the bed when she was hiding near the end of the movie. Maybe it had something to do with watching the film outside. Hocus Pocus is a great family film, and Disney has announced that they are finally filming a sequel that will come out in 2022. Until then, enjoy the movie. Halloween isn't Halloween without the Sanderson Sisters!

MY RATING: 9 out of 10

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