The perfect potion for Halloween cinema includes three doofy witches, a couple bratty teens, and a WONDERFUL and PERFECT talking cat.
Oh my goodness. My gosh. My heavens. I love this movie–I have loved this movie since I was a wee, little child. I love this movie so much that I’m not going to chance much of a summary because I will be tempted to examine every little detail of the film. So let’s just focus on what Kenny Ortega’s Halloween cult classic, available on Disney+, does right.
***SPOIL, BUBBLE, SPOILERS AND TROUBLE!***
When California teen Max (Omri Katz) moves to the town of Salem, MA just a week before Halloween, the most conflict he expects if fighting with his 8-year-old sister, Dani (Thora Birch), and dealing with his attraction to classmate and witch enthusiast, Allison (Vinessa Shaw).
But things take a turn for the worst for Max when, in an effort to impress Allison, he lights the Black Flame Candle meant to bring back the Sanderson witches if lit by a virgin on a Halloween full moon (so any virgins better stay away from weird candles tonight!!) The witches–leader Winifred (Bette Midler) and her ditzy sisters Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy)–appear in their old home-turned-museum with a hunger for children.
Thankfully, Max, Allison, and Dani have the help of a friendly talking cat named Binx (voiced by Jason Marsden) who was actually a boy named Thackery (played by Sean Murray) 300 years prior. When Thackery failed to save his own young sister, Emily (Amanda Shepherd), from being killed by the Sandsersons’ youth and immortality spell, he was turned into an immortal black cat and vowed to stop the witches when they returned from the grave.
It’s not a super epic chase, and it isn’t scary at all, which is why so many kids can watch it–although, Doug Jones as the zombie Billy Butcherson might give young ones a little scare–but it’s mostly just a fun romp through Salem where kids are trying to kill in self defense (they lock the witches in a kiln and try to incinerate them, I guess) and 17th century witches are dealing with the 1990s.
I think that not being scared of the Sandersons is a big part of why this movie is so great; they literally kill a child in the first, like, ten minutes of the movie, but every moment with them is dysfunctional and humourous. Viewers are allowed little glimpses into their POV instead of following Max and Co. around the entire time, which gives plenty more opportunities for magic hilarity (riding vacuums when their brooms are stolen, for instance) and for those big name actors (cue Bette Middler: booOOOOOOOoooooook!) to truly build their characters up for an experience that will keep people dressing up as Sandersons for years to come.
But let me just get this out of the way: I don’t care about Allison. Like, at all. She doesn’t get a whole lot of characterization, really, and it feels like a wasted opportunity for her to use some of her witch-history (witchstory) knowledge to help stop the Sandersons, but poor girl only finds out that salt is good against devilish creatures from a witch’s book, and she’s the one who decides to burn the witches alive in the kiln (a good lesson to not leave your villain until they’re donezo.) Dani is a fun little brat, cute and energetic even when she’s causing issues. Max is pretty annoying, but he’s a teen boy and he’s doing his best.
But none of them–none of them–compare to my darling Thackery Binx. My childish heart was obsessed with this ghostly boy and didn’t even mind that he was a cat for most of the movie. He was desperate to save his little sister; he was willing to use his immortality to guard the Sanderson house; he was so kind and so thoughtful and I cried last night, as I do every time I see this movie, when Binx finally reunites with Emily. It’s heartwarming and the perfect framing device for the movie, which started with Thackery and Emily. So well done–so nicely wrapped up–so INSPIRING! Anyway.
I don’t have to tell people that Hocus Pocus is good. Just Googling the title shows three different cinema showings in my area. It’s literally one of the best parts of Halloween. If you can’t stream it with a service you already pay for, one reason why I hadn’t seen the movie for years, then you may be able to catch a socially-distanced outdoor or indoor showing somewhere near you.
And HAPPY HALLOWEEN, dear weenies!