My History With the Film:
I was ten years old when Hocus Pocus was released and despite being the prime target age for a film like this, I didn’t see it until twenty six years later. I don’t remember a lot of fuss about the film when it was released, but I’ve watched as it’s cult status has increased over the years. It’s now mandatory Halloween watching for many fans of the film and I figured as a fan of 90’s culture it was time for me to see what all the fuss was about.
What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
The new kid in town accidently releases three witches on Halloween night who had been trapped for over three hundred years.
What I Liked About It:
-Some movies have this aura about them that just screams Halloween and Hocus Pocus is full of that aura. It’s spooky and fun with tons of Halloween set dressing. I’m sure my nostalgia for the Halloweens of my childhood play a part in my fondness for this film, but it really took me back to a simple time when Halloween was celebrated with a certain sort of innocence.
-The production value is great with this film. It’s got a nice mix of digital effects along with practical effects. It also mixes up real life locations with sets and does a good job keeping continuity with the same tone and feel.
-The cast is great all around in this film. It’s hard not to recognize the Sanderson Sisters: Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) for going all out in their roles. They really put it all on the line and eat up every scene they are in. They embraced the characters and created unforgettable performances.
That’s not to say the rest of the cast wasn’t worth noting. Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson) is always fantastic. The children: Max (Omri Katz), Allison (Vinessa Shaw), and Dani (Thora Birch) all put on convincing performances with Thora Birch stealing every scene she was in. Penny and Garry Marshall also have memorable roles as The Devil and his wife.
What I Didn’t Like About It:
-The film grossed just under $40 million in theaters.
-The animatronic cat was later used in Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
-The script was originally purchased in 1984 and was titled Disney’s Halloween House. Rumor has it that the film was much darker and would have possibly been a made-for-TV movie.
-The film was released in July 1993 to take advantage of out of school children and to avoid competition with Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas which was released near Halloween that same year.
-Sarah Jessica Parker (Sara) actually ate the spider and those were real moths coming out of Doug Jones’ (Billy) mouth.
-The fountain in front of the school is the same fountain from the opening credits of Friends.
-The film actually was shot in Salem, Massachusetts.
-Omri Katz (Max Dennison) and Jason Marsden (the voice of Binx the Cat) both starred in the supernatural TV series Eerie, Indiana.
-The film was co-written by Mick Garris, director of Sleepwalkers (1992), The Stand (1994), and The Shining (1997).
I enjoyed my time watching Hocus Pocus. I don’t have any real complaints about the film and I thought the performances and scenery made for a great viewing experience. Will I watch it yearly? Ehhh probably not, but I could easily see this as something I put on in the background while decorating or watching every couple of years.
I try not to judge children/family movies too hard, especially when I know that I’m not the target audience. Is this a perfect film? No. It could use a little trimming in a few places and some of the CGI hasn’t aged all that well, but I think if I saw this as a ten year old I would have adored the film and it would have had a special place in my heart. I tried to watch this film through those less jaded eyes and I found myself enjoying the experience. I think Hocus Pocus is a great Halloween film and is worth your time if you love 80’s/90’s family films or have children of your own.
I rate Hocus Pocus a four out of five and say it’s a high priority rental.