(Don't complain about my titles, man. Don't harsh my title buzz like that.)
I’ve never seen Hocus Pocus. How is this possible? I love Halloween, witches, classic Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bette Midler! I love all these things, as well as Disney, and yet... here we are. So I’m going to live blog / review my first viewing experience with you.
:49 Full disclosure: I love anything that starts with sweeping orchestration.
One of my favorite Disney Halloween-themed movies is The Watcher in the Woods. I sincerely doubt this will be as thoroughly creepy as that but the woods and cottage put me in mind of Watcher which I’m going to go ahead and recommend that you watch next. Bette Davis is in it! She's got Bette Davis eyes!
4:49 Sarah Jessica Parker gives a great sneer. I do love the ability to throw quality shade.
Luring children is a big witch theme. Roald Dahl’s The Witches covers similar ground, of course, though Anjelica Huston grows tired with luring them one by one and decides to wholesale turn them all into mice. I honestly don’t disapprove of that plan but for purposes of not angering parents among our readers I won’t openly cheer for the witches either. (This time.) Anyway, it’s thus far unclear what the three sister-witches in this film have planned other than that it necessarily involves something nefarious with a young girl. Eating her? Maybe?
7:55 They are... draining the child’s life force? By breathing in her glowing aura? Ah, it’s a youth potion. Quintessential witchery. Witches everywhere have traditionally been obsessed with preserving their youth and/or obtaining immortality from the Evil Queen in Snow White through to Jessica Lange’s Fiona in this season’s ‘American Horror Story: Coven’.
11:12 They sing!
12:03 That’s not a beast, that cat is your (new and improved) son!
12:ish I lost track of time briefly but it’s important to note that the witches, the Sanderson sisters, got hung in the past. So ... now the movie fast forwards to “present day”. Or the past if you’re watching it now. 1993, anyway.
This film is set in Salem. Which is perfect. Salem, with its rich history of witch hunts and witchery and superstition is the ideal setting for hauntings both R-rated and more family friendly. There is a romantic teen subplot in Hocus Pocus that I’m not going to bother writing about because... you know, for reasons. Let’s instead discuss whether or not the Sanderson sisters are based on real people from Salem’s past. They aren’t. But I will find some real Salem ‘witches’ to tell you about another day.
15:50 Thugs that hang out in cemeteries. These guys telegraph “we are bad news” because in Disney films they totally are. But they may also hold the key to the movie’s climax because in Disney films these kind of guys often are subject to redemption. I personally am hoping for them to get turned into something unnatural by the witch sisters.
19:40 Thora Birch is adorable. And her big brother, the main protagonist, is a classic sullen misunderstood kid acting like a jerk. Who, I’m calling it now, will be forced out of his indifference when the witches threaten his sister.
24:58 Teen love story... blah blah... BRING BACK THE WITCHES!! A movie called Hocus Pocus requires a lot more witchery.
28:00 Finally, the kids decide to do something stupid and therefore wonderful for those of us viewing at home. The teen girl love interest (Alison) is into witches so the teen boy (Max) agrees to go to the old Sanderson sister home. Where he is now going to light a cursed candle on Halloween night against all the better advice of his much-smarter little sister. An earthquake and green light ensues. “A VIRGIN lit the candle,” she tells him witheringly when he asks what happened. And now the witch sisters are back.
33:23 In which I am proved psychic and Max stands up for his little sister. Just as predicted. But the fun here isn’t in the oh-so-original plot, the fun is entirely in watching Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy ham it up and chew scenery.
34:55 The cat can talk. Because it used to be a boy. Oh Disney, will your whimsy never end?
Plot is happening but as it’s entirely unimportant I’m not making note of it. The witches are the main draw here and by god they are divinely and gloriously campy.
40:22 They fly! On brooms! Classic.
42:00 A zombie? This movie has everything you could want in a Halloween film but as filtered through a PG lens so it won’t keep you up at night. If you are at all interested in all the clichéd trappings of the holiday, over-the-top performances from wondrous actresses, and the ability to sleep peacefully afterwards, then this really is the movie for you.
45:25 Seriously, the sisters form a ‘calming circle’ when they’re stressed. I love these witches. I love that they are now hitting on a bus driver who is totally under the impression this is his lucky night. In a way it is - he'll live through it. Men just have a different definition of lucky.
51:00 I will also say this: thus far in the movie the cat has been run over (then reanimated) and the zombie’s fingers have been cut off. Disney, I’m impressed.
54:40 Now this is a party! Why don’t parties like this happen in our city? A big band playing live jazz, a masquerade ball, inspired costumes... I would attend the hell out of this.
58:18 Oh... please god, let this be happening... a musical number! Bette Midler is doing a witchy musical number! This is some kind of Halloween heaven!
1:02:11 I enjoy their Monkees unison walk thing.
1:03:02 And now, in a stunning reversal of the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel, the witches are being burnt alive in the school’s pottery oven. However, I sincerely doubt this is the last of them. It’s only been an hour. Film logic dictates a comeback.
1:05:50 Called it.
1:07:04 Thugs in cages hung from the ceiling of the witch sister house. I approve.
I feel as though witches as a whole should start committing their spells to memory or having a duplicate book hidden in a safe place somewhere because they are always thwarted when some upstart steals the sole book containing all their known magic. Just for safety’s sake, wouldn’t a secondary book be useful? Or several books? Or a database? Or an alarm?
1:15:18 Sarah Jessica Parker is now singing a siren song while a wind sexily tousles her hair and whips her skirts around. See? Something for everyone.
1:20:41 They’re quite hilarious. I wonder how much of this they improvised?
1:26:58 I won’t spoil the epic showdown except to say there are broom stunts galore, it takes place in a cemetery, and there is redemption as promised.
1:28:37 The sisters are vanquished in quite fabulous ways, actually. Glitter may be involved. Like if Liberace and Edward Cullen collided mid-air...? It would be similar.
There’s more redemption and some lessons learned and some tears because after all this is Disney. But the credits sequence of all the sweaty, exhausted parents exiting their party at dawn after surviving the ‘dance till you die’ curse is totally worth all the lessons learned.
Do we need me to take an official stance here? Do I have to lay out some sort of recommendation? Okay, here it is: I recommend this as a fun-for-everyone Halloween movie night. If you have kids plop them in front of this after trick-or-treating and let them run their sugar rush off without fear of permanent damage. If you don’t have kids watch it anyway because Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler are utterly delightful and there’s a musical number. It won’t kill you to not watch Saw, you know?
- Corinne Simpson