It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Fears come back from the dead and walk in the day. Goths thrive at midnight showings of “Rocky Horror” and vandals throw eggs at houses. And the Film Beat? We’re popping popcorn and crawling under blankets to watch some of our favorite scary (or just vaguely spooky) films. ’Tis the season for tricks and treats — whether we’re jumping in our skins or howling at the moon. Join us as we walk through films that remind us of the dark night of Halloween.
When I first discovered that there were some people who do not like “Hocus Pocus,” I was frankly shocked. Since childhood, I considered the movie to be a fun Halloween movie — an entertaining and essential viewing. However, I have not seen the movie in a while. With Halloween just around the corner, I am revisiting “Hocus Pocus” to see how it holds up.
One of the best parts of the movie is the jokes; not all the jokes are equally entertaining, as we will get to later, but there are countless silly jokes that make you feel like you just have to laugh at them, no matter how terrible they are. From the cheesy dialogue to the campy acting of all three Sanderson Sisters, the comedy is infectiously bad. One moment you will be cringing at some terrible dialogue, but then the next you are dying of laughter at one of the funniest jokes you’ve heard all day. This really all comes from the main villains of the movie, the Sanderson Sisters, played by Bette Midler (“The Addams Family”), Sarah Jessica Parker (“New Year’s Eve”) and Kathy Najimy (“Dumplin”). At one point in the movie, the Sanderson Sisters mistake an old man in a costume for Satan, and all three actresses spend the entire scene being exaggeratedly obsessed with a random stranger. They all fully play into the corny comedy of the movie, heightening their characters to the point of absurdity, and then going even further.
Then there is the iconic and bizarre music scene halfway through the movie. The Sanderson Sisters suddenly break into song, singing “I Put A Spell On You” while simultaneously enchanting all of the adults in Salem. Midler romps across the stage. It comes out of nowhere, and the movie never adequately addresses the surprise musical number. Despite all of that, the song is absolutely amazing. For a moment, the entire movie is completely flipped on its head, but you just don’t care.
The movie is intended for kids, so therefore the cheesy jokes and the simple plot are excusable. However, for a movie supposedly for children, “Hocus Pocus” talks about sex a lot. The main character Max is made fun of by both his sister and a stranger for being a virgin. His virginity is also vital for the spell that resurrects the Sanderson Sisters. The movie spends a lot of time focusing on the sex life of a teenager. Any kid watching the movie would likely never think twice about Max’s virginity, but as an adult, it feels awkward.
However, “Hocus Pocus” is a Halloween movie at heart. The movie incorporates the folkish lore behind All Hallows’ Eve. The entire movie lives and breathes for Halloween, but not necessarily just the scary parts.
For some, Halloween is a night where stupid teenagers chase children down the street in costumes and kids ask strangers for candy. But to “Hocus Pocus,” Halloween is more than just that: It’s a truly magical night where anything is possible. Witches can come back from the dead, a colonial boy named Thackery can be trapped in the body of a cat for 300 years and a movie can suddenly break into song with no warning.
“Hocus Pocus” is a confusing mess of a movie, and that is part of its charm. It wildly switches from awkward adult jokes to absurd music scenes, all for the total bafflement and enjoyment of the viewer. If you are looking for fewer frights in your Halloween movies, “Hocus Pocus” definitely won’t disappoint, although you might be confused about exactly what you just watched when you finish.
Daily Arts Contributor Zach Loveall can be reached at email@example.com.