Hocus Pocus (1993)
October 31, 2016 10:20 AM - Subscribe

After three centuries, three witch sisters are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it is up to two teenagers, a young girl and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches' reign of terror once and for all.

11 Things You Didn't Know About Hocus Pocus
Where Is The Cast Now?
26 Times You Quoted Hocus Pocus Without Even Knowing It
Witch, Please! Our 20 Favorite Things About Hocus Pocus

Bette Midler's Halloween Costume Keeps Your 'Hocus Pocus' Sequel Dreams Alive

3 stars and 11+ from Common Sense Media, 30/71 at Rotten Tomatoes, reviewed in the NYT by Janet Maslin and 1 star from Roger Ebert
"Hocus Pocus" is a film desperately in need of self-discipline.

It's one of those projects where you imagine everyone laughing and applauding each other after every scene, because they're so convinced they're wild and crazy guys. But watching the movie is like attending a party you weren't invited to, and where you don't know anybody, and they're all in on a joke but won't explain it to you.
Hocus Pocus, Cult Classic
posted by the man of twists and turns (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This movie is part of the Holiday Movie Club
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:25 AM on October 31, 2016

amok amok amok amok
posted by phearlez at 11:04 AM on October 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

This movie is obsessed with virginity
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:05 AM on October 31, 2016

My impression of it has always been that the whole "virgin" gag grows out of a fumbled attempt at dramatic irony -- the prophecy only said "virgin," which might imply some some celibate champion of the faith as might be expected to hunt witches in the 16th century, and instead it turns out that no, the foretold hero was 14. And then the little sister seizes on it as a funny word that annoys her brother.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:21 AM on October 31, 2016

Anyone know where I can download it?
posted by winterportage at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2016

I saw this and Nightmare Before Christmas, both for the first time in a decade and a half or so, with some friends recently, and we couldn't stop gawking at how BIG these peoples' houses are. Pack of rich kids!
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:34 PM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Huh. I'd always thought it was a Disney Channel Original Movie. It certainly has the feel of one to me.
posted by NMcCoy at 2:39 PM on October 31, 2016

Bette Midler has complained that she was disappointed with the movie's edit, that they shot a lot of great material that never got used. I don't know how true that was, but I have read there was a grocery store scene that sounded really funny, i.e., Kathy Najimy's character found a bottle of witch hazel and chugged it down, then stocked up on jars of baby food because she assumed it was made from babies, and exchanged a "you too?" smile of comradery with another woman who was also buying baby food.
posted by orange swan at 7:32 PM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks, Metafilter, I now have a slightly hysterical child cuddling our oldest black cat who is patiently putting up with her wails of "But why did the cat have to die? I don't want him to die!"
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:56 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I was in high school, I went on a trip to Kansas City with my Dad and brother. We took a lot of mass transit and went to a few Royals games, and, having no interest in talking to my Dad and brother or watching baseball, I brought my book along with me. That book was Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. So many people who saw me reading it asked how it was and said they loved the movie. After the first twenty or so people, I stopped correcting them and just said, "Me, too."
At the time I hadn't seen it, but now I have. It's no Ernest Scared Stupid, but it's a pretty great early 90's time capsule (I'm pretty sure there is an actual early 90's time capsule, and that's where Omri Katz has been all this time.)
posted by cottoncandybeard at 6:13 AM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Huh. I'd always thought it was a Disney Channel Original Movie. It certainly has the feel of one to me.

It was originally written as one, Midler expressed interest but only as a feature. It kind of flopped in theaters but was then shown every single year on the Disney Channel around Halloween. Like, multiple times a month. Thus why a certain age bracket has fond nostgalia for it.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on November 1, 2016

Relatedly, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World has a really funny Hocus Pocus themed show in front of the castle. Three actors are dressed as the witches, and the Disney Villains all participate. I was SHOCKED at the number of adults clapping and singing along.
posted by kimberussell at 6:22 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Young Thora Birch kinda sucked in this, I thought; a very look-at-me-I'm-acting stage-school-does-Annie kind of performance. It doesn't help that the writing for the kids is so awful: they speak like miniature adults, not children.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:35 AM on November 6, 2016

Bette Midler has complained that she was disappointed with the movie's edit, that they shot a lot of great material that never got used.

Huh; it felt to me like the movie was already way too much ha-aha-they're-SO-FUNNY in love with the witch bits. The last thing it needed was another 20 minutes of Midler & co hamming it up.

The song was the best part; and one of the instances where the movie's genre uncertainty worked. It stars Bette Midler; of course you're going to get a big musical number.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:43 AM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

This was one of three VHS tapes my grandmother had, which were the length and breadth of child-friendly entertainment available when my mother dropped me off for a day visit. At least until Grandma got a handheld electronic solitaire game, probably made by Tiger Electronics, which held my fascination equally as well as my own Disney's Aladdin LCD game which to my recollection had three levels and I never bested.

But so the tape library contained Hocus Pocus (my favorite, and so given the frequency of trips to Grandma's must have been monthly viewing for me. I remember the tape started to wear out toward the end when the cat turned back into a boy ghost and everything got unbearably sappy, repeatedly fast forwarding to the credits for the end music causing a visual marker of my disdain through the mechanism of physically distressing the underlying media.), Mary Poppins (a distant second, being baby stuff, unless Grandma managed to get Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (written without reference and surprisingly not highlighted by this machine's spell checker) stuck in my head before I could cram Hocus Pocus in the VCR, I am and always have been a sucker for a good tune) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I refused to watch and have still never seen to this day on the basis of there being nothing fun or interesting about cars.

My favorite witch was of course Kathy Najimy, whose having to mount a vacuum cleaner caused me to feel deep and inexplicable sympathy. We would later tape In Search of Dr. Seuss off the TV at home (commercials and all), so it would often happen that after (oftentimes marathon repeat) viewings of Hocus Pocus at Grandma's, I would go home and continue to watch Ms. Najimy in a different, fantastical setting through the wonders of TV magic! She occupies something of an ur-celebrity position in my mind, being the first person I recognized performing in two different roles. I suspect I had a terrible crush on her.

Years later Grandma acquired a NES with a vast library of cartridges, and I sometimes shifted my attention to Ghostbusters. In that time and that place its clear association to spooky Halloween things (like Hocus Pocus!) appealed to me, but to this day I still have no understanding of how it was meant to be played. Yet one day I managed beat it.
I have never felt so betrayed.
posted by books for weapons at 10:39 AM on November 6, 2016

I just watched this for the first time in many years. It was even cheesier than I remembered it being. I understand that people of the right age are likely to be nostalgic for it, but I'm 10-15 years older than that group.

The best parts were: a) Bette Midler singing, and b) SJP singing. Which makes it seem a shame that we don't get to hear Kathy Najimy sing lead at some point; we know from Sister Act, released a year earlier, that she can.

Other random thoughts:

The special effects seem weak, even by 1993 standards.

I noticed an odd naming convention among characters: the Sanderson sisters, Max and Dani Dennison (and parents), Billy Butcherson, and Allison Watts. Thackeray Binx is about the only major character who doesn't have "son" in their name. No idea if this is intentional, and if so, what its significance is.

Once Billy cuts his stitches and opens his mouth, he insults Winifred and starts helping the children... but then why was he doing Winifred's bidding before that?

I hadn't realized that Billy was an early role of Doug Jones, who went on to play many other memorable characters, including the Amphibian in The Shape of Water, Commander Saru in Star Trek: Discovery, and both the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth.

Garry and Penny Marshall (RIP both) are delightful, even with the weak material they had to work with.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:25 AM on October 29, 2019

Well, my goodness, Hocus Pocus 2 is reportedly in the works.
posted by orange swan at 2:35 PM on September 5, 2020

I love Hocus Pocus and have decided it’s a decidedly feminist movie. Hear me out!
-of the six main characters, four are female
- it passes the bechdel test
-all of the ladies have agency and aren’t motivated by a man/boys
- the majority of the lines spoken are spoken by women/girls
-it has a final boy instead of a final girl
-it has three comediennes as the villains and allows all of them to be individual and funny

In conclusion I AM CALM
posted by supercrayon at 4:40 PM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just rewatched this on October 30th -- I've seen it perhaps five or six times in all. It's not a good movie, but there are so many good moments that it's watchable. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are all very accomplished comic actresses, and though it's true they ham it up, they are playing witches in a kids' movie, and they're so skilled that they can even be hammy with finesse, so I think their hamminess was appropriate for this movie. I just wish the rest of the movie had been on par with them. The writing and many of the other performances are a huge let down compared to the three Sanderson sisters. Even the cat looks fake half the time.

As for the good moments... the big musical number with Midler singing "I Put a Spell On You" while Parker and Najimy provide back up (of course!), Sarah discovering how much fun it is to say "amok", Mary riding a vacuum cleaner, the three witches being sassy even at their hanging, the clueless adults dancing all night at the town hall without ever realizing anything was going on, the magic book with its eyeball, the two bullies singing "Row Your Boat" while stuck in their hanging cages, Winnifred whining that Dani called her "ugly" and Mary's "She's jealous!", Winifred calling the school "a prison for children", etc.

Bette Midler is very fond of using Hocus Pocus GIFs on her Twitter page, and I can't blame her at all. (Heck, I had to share this meme on my Facebook page on Halloween.) She used that "'Tis time!" one on the morning of the 2020 election, which, heh.

The sequel is scheduled for release on Halloween 2022, and I must admit I'm looking forward to it.
posted by orange swan at 8:59 AM on November 3, 2021

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