Movie Review: Disney's "Hocus Pocus"

These familiar faces are back and at the Birmingham Public Library.

By Charlie Simonton | Librarian Ⅱ, North Birmingham

I put a spell on you, and now you’re mine! 
—Winifred Sanderson, Hocus Pocus.

If you’ve ever had to move to a new town, especially several states away or even across the country, you know how hard it can be to leave all your friends behind and try to make new ones.

Even if you made the worst first impression, you’ve probably never unwittingly released a trio of witchy sisters from a 300-year slumber, unleashing them on your new home to cause chaos and steal the life force from local children before dawn.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what teenaged Max Dennison does on Halloween night in 1993 in Hocus Pocus.

Max is unhappy (and vocal about it) with his family’s recent move from California to Salem, Massachusetts. He first mocks his teacher’s special Halloween history lesson about the infamous Sanderson Sisters—sisters Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. 

The town of Salem hanged this trio 300 years ago on Halloween night in 1693 for witchcraft and the deaths of young Emily Binx and her older brother, Thackery. 

He then mocks his younger sister, Dani, who has fully embraced the town’s enthusiasm for everything to do with Halloween, even dressing as a witch herself. 

While reluctantly taking Dani trick-or-treating, Max crosses paths with his crush, Alison. He convinces her to take them to the old Sanderson house—now a defunct and abandoned museum—to try and convince him the story is true.

Max jokingly lights the legendary Black Flame Candle at the old Sanderson house. But because he is a virgin, he fulfills the conditions of a spell that Winifred Sanderson cast just before she and her sisters died.

Now the witches are back in the modern world. Using the magic from Winifred’s spellbook, the sisters must suck the soul from just one, single child before the sun rises, or they will be sent to the grave for good.

With the help of Thackery Binx—cursed by the sisters to live an immortal life as a black cat, haunted forever by his guilt of being unable to save his sister—Max, Alison, and Dani must find a way to thwart the sisters’ plans, or all of the children of Salem will be at risk.

Starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker as the witchy trio, Hocus Pocus did not do well for Disney during its initial theatrical release in 1993.

In the nearly three decades since, however, it has become something of a cult classic with its popularity spiking with some regularity every year during the Halloween season.

If you can't get enough of Hocus Pocus, this book will get you through until the sequel. 

Work on a sequel began in 2017 and filming beginning earlier this month; Midler, Najimy, and Parker all confirmed reprising their roles as the Sanderson Sisters. In 2018, a novelization of the movie and a sequel story was published as Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel.

Your Birmingham Public Library (BPL) has copies of the movie as well as the book. Give your branch a call today, and make this Disney classic part of your Halloween tradition today.

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