The crazy billowing dresses, the gelled-up orange hair, the dead man’s toe — it’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus, remember? Cringey pre-teen romance, slapstick craziness and so much nostalgia get brewed into a re-watch of the 1993 Halloween classic “Hocus Pocus.” I would definitely recommend working a showing into your second Halloweekend.
For a refresher from simpler times, protagonist Max, his sister Dani and his crush Allison bring old Salem witches Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson back from the dead on Halloween night. The witches have a succinct three point plan to achieving immortality — get their human skin spell book, brew the potion, suck the life force from children, or else they turn to dust — and Max, Dani and Allison run away with their spell book and miraculously save everyone! Remember a time when the only thing you had to worry about was if Binx the black cat would ever be reunited with his little sister?
If not for the thrillingly intense plotline, rewatch “Hocus Pocus” for the little moments. When Winnie performs a spell at the party and Sarah and Mary are snazzy backup singers. When Winnie bites off the tip of her own tongue and spits it into the potion. When Winnie figures out that high school is a prison for children. When Winnie just widens her eyes or screeches “SISTAHS” and a piece of you is just so happy Bette Midler was in this movie. Honestly, I vibed so hard with Winifred Sanderson: cranky in the morning, the loudest voice, always snarky. When you’re younger, you see yourself in Dani and Max, but this time, Winnie put a spell on me and now I’m hers, sistah.
I’ll be honest, “Hocus Pocus” gets a little crazy at the end, and the middle and the beginning. The story and the stakes flip flop constantly. First, Billy, Winnie’s dead suitor, is trying to chase Max and his gang. Then things escalate instantaneously and he holds a knife to Max’s neck. Then he becomes their friend and they cry when he falls back into his grave. My 19-year-old self is frustrated by Allison, easily the most awkwardly constructed character. The two-dimensional high school sweetheart archetype contributes very little to the movie and receives a disappointingly objectifying joke about her “yabos.” (“Yabos” is supposed to mean “boobs” in this movie.) Later she tries her hand at comedy when she reads a salt shaker aloud and says: “Use iodized salt to ward off witches, zombies and old boyfriends.” Good one?
But try not to overthink it. The real magic is in just letting “Hocus Pocus” take you for a ride, or letting Mary Sanderson take you for a ride on her flying vacuum. In all its wackiness, “Hocus Pocus” delivers from the second that the sisters rise from the dead and Winnie screams “Oh, look. Another glorious morning. Makes me sick!” Nostalgia. It’s still so, so sweet.
I also might be giving Winnie too much credit. Looking from the big picture in, it’s hard to appreciate what actual nugget of value Mary Sanderson adds to the movie. However, her genius radiates in tiny lightning bursts, like when she suggests the witches form a “calming circle,” or gives someone a crazy side-eyed glance and you’re forced to smirk to yourself. It’s so goofy. It’s the kind of real heart-warming goofy that hits you every time the three of them do their nutty walk with their arms over each other’s shoulders and their heads swinging back and forth.
Remember when Winnie rips a zombie mask off of a kid’s face and yells “SISTAHS, All Hallow’s Eve has become a night of frolic, where children wear costumes and run amok!” How would she have explained Hallowoads?
Emily Schussheim | firstname.lastname@example.org .