I remember the summer of 1993 fondly. It was the year I went to see the “Coneheads” movie and recall thinking back to the release of “Hocus Pocus” wondering why it wasn’t slated for an October release. Disney is usually smart with release dates, and “Hocus Pocus” ended up becoming one of the most revered holiday classics of all time. For Disney-philes, “Hocus Pocus” has enough menace to be considered a horror movie, but not so much where it’s impossible for the kids to watch. Twenty years later, “Hocus Pocus” is that classic horror film for kids that has yet to show its age at all, even when you consider adorable Thora Birch turned in to a gorgeous woman many years later. “Hocus Pocus” hearkens back to the most entertaining element of the Halloween season: the threat of witches.
From that it builds the base for a creepy and sweet tale about family bonding and self-sacrifice in the name of love. Omri Katz plays Max, a young small town boy who is trying his best to impress the local beauty Alison. With Max’s parents going to a Halloween party, he’s tasked with taking his little sister Dani (Thora Birch) trick or treating. Allison follows along with the twosome and in an effort to impress Allison, Max takes the girls to an ancient house where there’s an alleged curse. Through circumstance, Max unleashes the trio of evil Sanderson sisters, a group of demonic witches who come back to enslave the world and feed on the spirits of young children. Teamed with a talking cat named Binx, the kids have to figure out how to get the witches back in to their prisons before they begin enslaving Salem once again.
“Hocus Pocus” has a delightful sense of whimsy, and a hearty Halloween spirit that director Kenny Ortega channels with great zeal. All of the film is set during Halloween night, while the Sanderson sisters wreak havoc on the town adjusting to modern technology while preying on innocent victims. The trio of Bette Midler, Kathy Nijimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker prove a force of comedic nature as the eccentric but deadly sisters unaccustomed with the new world, but still open to feeding on young children. With their rat-like buck teeth and twitching noses, their foes to be reckoned with that spare no one when they’re angry enough. Much of the special effects are still rather fantastic with Ortega allowing some creepy effects that will amuse its targeted audience. Beyond that there’s also a slew of likable and heartfelt characters that take part in this battle of good and evil that still connect with audiences.
The relationship between Max and feisty heroine Dani is complicated but absolutely touching. As well, Dani’s slow but strong bond with cat Binx who acts as a guide to the kids to help them stop the Sanderson sisters once and for all is adorable and still manages to draw a tear from me to this day. Ortega gives his holiday entry a really excellent sense of entertainment and timeless joy that make it a Halloween film that was perfect the way it is and didn’t need to be saturated with sequels and spin offs. “Hocus Pocus” with its musical numbers (Have to love Midler’s “I Put a Spell On You” number) and great sense of humor (The witches confused a man dressed as Satan for actual Satan) makes for the perfect Halloween film, and is still an underrated Disney gem to this day.