Hocus Pocus (1993)

hocus pocus poster 1993 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Family Halloween film with some intro-to-horror aspects

Oddly balanced kid film that might be too adult for youngsters but boring for adults

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Hocus Pocus

Studio:  Walt Disney Pictures/Torchwood Pacific Partners 1

Genre(s):  Horror/Comedy/Family

Release Date(s):  July 16, 1993

MPAA Rating:  PG

hocus pocus sanderson sisters bette midler sarah jessica parker kathy najimy

Time to eat the souls of children!

Max Dennison (Omri Katz) is the new kid in school in Salem, Massachusetts after leaving sunny California…and Max is not fitting in.  He’s being bullied, and Allison (Vinessa Shaw), the girl he likes, doesn’t seem to be giving him the time of day.  When he is forced to take his sister Dani (Thora Birch) trick-or-treating on Halloween night, he finds he might get his chance to spend time with Allison.  Allison, Dani, and Max accidentally unleash the Sanderson Sisters who seek to take up their witchcraft where they left off three hundred years ago.  Teamed with a cursed cat Binx, Max, Allison, and Dani must save Salem and stop Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) before it is too late!

hocus pocus max allison dani thora birch omri katz vinessa shaw

Hey, guys…who want to resurrect some children eating witches?

Directed by Kenny Ortega, Hocus Pocus was a family Disney Halloween film.  The movie was originally intended for a television release, but bumped up to a theatrical release when its potential was seen.  Since its release, the movie has gained a cult following and is a holiday staple.

I was too old for Hocus Pocus when it was released in 1993, and I did not see it in its entirety until recently.  If I had seen it as a kid, I probably would have liked it, but I do find aspects of the story somewhat odd and off-putting for younger viewers.

The movie is surprising sexualized for a “family” film.  The witches are released because Max is a virgin.  It comes up multiple times along with drug use by the bullies.  While this is more realistic, the tone of the movie is more kid based, and as an adult I can’t really get into it…it seems a rather weird dichotomy that doesn’t fit the picture which sometimes is too light and too heavy handed.

hocus pocus frank marshall penny marshall married brother sister

Screw the Sanderson Sisters…I want to know more about this creepy brother-sister duo

It is rather odd that the movie chose older actors as the leads.  If the movie had been made now, I’m sure the whole cast would have been the age of Thora Birch who plays the young sister to make it more kid friendly.  The two lead teen actors are actually quite good in comparison to some actors in a movie this level (Leonardo DiCaprio was originally cast as the lead but turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?…good choice).  The two adult scene stealers are uncredited brother and sister Garry and Penny Marshall who play husband and wife during the trick-or-treating scene…and that is kind of creepy in itself.

The real stars of the film are the witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy.  This was of course a highly fluid casting with Rosie O’Donnell originally planned for Kathy Najimy.  The characters ham it up and even reference some of their other works (like Bette Midler’s reference to Gypsy).  The three work well together.  I just don’t like how they are used.

hocus pocus billy butcherson zombie doug jones

Don’t wake Billy!

The movie does have a lot of atmosphere and that is the most positive thing about it.  The Halloween feel of Salem is like the Halloween you dream of as a kid.  The decorations and costumes look handmade and everyone is into the holiday.  This combines with some pretty good costume design and visuals.

Hocus Pocus doesn’t do much for me, but I didn’t grow up with it.  I would recommend it for six or seven year olds but some of the content will lead for uncomfortable questions for their parents.  The movie and its likable cast could have been more along the lines of The Witches, but instead feels like more Disney fluff.  There aren’t a ton of kid friendly “horror” and Halloween tales so Hocus Pocus will have to suffice until they can move on to real horror (or parents could have them see some classic Universal Monster movies instead).  Hocus Pocus was followed by Hocus Pocus 2 in 2022.

Related Links:

Hocus Pocus 2 (2022)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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