Hocus Pocus, by Albert W. Vogt III

The one thing I remembered of Hocus Pocus (1993) was of Sarah Jessica Parker as one of the time hopping Salem witch sisters, Sarah Sanderson, bouncing up and down and gleefully shouting “Amok, amok, amok!” I had never actually seen the movie, but for whatever reason that little clip stuck out in my brain. I did not even realize it was Sarah Jessica Parker until I sat down to watch it last night in the afterglow of my Thanksgiving feasting. Thankfully the film did not ruin my evening, if only because I did not let it. But boy did it try.

Set the wayback machine for Salem, Massachusetts, 1693. However, instead of talking about the real, infamous Salem Witch Trials, we see a young girl being lured into the woods by somebody. The little girl is Emily Binx (Amanda Shepherd), and she is spotted just before being swallowed by the trees completely by her brother Thackery (Sean Murray). By the way, whatever happened to naming people Thackery? At any rate, he follows her to the Sanderson house, a coven of witch sisters led by Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson (Bette Midler), along with Sarah and Mary (Kathy Najimy). Their desire is to lure children into their home in order to use their magic to suck the life-force out of the young and thus achieve immortality. Why it has to be children, I do not know. It must have said it in the script. I bet there is fan fiction out there somewhere that explains these loose ends. This is Disney, after all. I digress. Thackery attempts to stop the witches, but is unsuccessful in keeping Emily from being magically murdered. He is turned into a talking black cat that can never die because that is, I guess, the first curse Winnie could conjure on the spot. Soon after this the rest of the village shows up decides to summarily execute the Sanderson by hanging for their crimes. The end. Just kidding, this film goes on for another hour and fifteen minutes, but from this point it zooms forward three hundred years. It is Halloween, of course, and Max Dennison (Omri Katz) is forced to take his little sister, Dani (Thora Birch), trick-or-treating. In the course of their candy quest they arrive at the home of Max’s high school crush, Allison (Vanessa Shaw). Seeing Dani dressed as a witch, Allison tells them how much she loves witches and studies them. She then takes the Dennison siblings to visit the Sanderson house, remarkably still standing after 300 years and at one point turned into a museum. They go inside and this is where the eye-rolling for me began in earnest. As any so-called scary movie will tell you, do not mess with magic! But because Max idiotically wants to goof around and somehow impress Allison, he decides to light a candle that, when lit by a virgin on Halloween, summons the Sanderson sisters back from the dead. Hooray. Winnie wants to get right back to the work of stealing the lives of children, but luckily Thackery in cat form (voiced by Jason Marsden, for no apparent reason) intervenes. Together they steal the Sanderson’s book of spells and flee to a nearby graveyard because, as everybody knows, witches cannot set foot on such . . . hallowed(?) ground. But they sure can fly over them on their brooms. From this point on there follows what basically amounts to one long, tiresome game of keep-away as the Dennison kids and Allison try to prevent the Sandersons from getting the book. They almost succeed too, except for in their ignorance they try to use a spell to lift the “curse” on Thackery. This act works as a homing beacon, quite literally, for the Sandersons, and they are able to track them down. This time, though, the witches are drawing all the children in town to them, but they begin their work with Emily. Max offers himself for her, but is saved once more but Thackery. By this point, the sun has begun to rise on the next day, breaking the spell that kept the Sanderson sisters alive. Astronomy saves the day!

There are many who would probably get annoyed with me while watching a movie. It has happened before, and I am sure it will happen again. After a series of disgusted grunts and sighs while viewing Hocus Pocus, the old man I live with attempted to remind that I need to turn off logic during these films. I replied by asking if he had ever met me. It is my nature, like water being wet or the sky being blue, to think along with a movie. This brings me to Thackery, the most sensible character in the film, even though he is a feline. He is a victim of witchcraft, and there is a reason why the Bible and the Catholic Church have condemned such practices. They are about dabbling in powers we mere mortals can never fully understand, and the consequences are always dire. The devil will tell you that it is not fair that God should have such sway over us, and that He wields it arbitrarily. Hence, since the dawn of time man has been trying to find some way of evening the playing field with the divine. It is fruitless because no matter what we do, we can never be God or do what He can do, and time after time such attempts have ended in disaster. Thackery being a cat is evidence of this, albeit in a supposedly comedic fashion. Yet he uses his experience to stop Max and Allison before they can truly wield magic in any way, other than pointing the way to the Dennison residence for the Sandersons.

So, if nothing else (and I cannot emphasize that enough), there is a stern warning against witchcraft in Hocus Pocus. The rest of it is dumb, to this reviewer, and not funny in the least. Maybe little kids will like it? However, this might hold the record for the most times the word “virgin” is used in a Disney film. That could lead to some awkward conversions with your little ones. There are a whole bunch of other moments in this one that do not make any sense, but hopefully I have given some sense of it to you to help you make up your mind as to whether or not you will watch it. I know I will not be seeing it again, but if it is one of those nostalgia pieces for you, have at it.

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