Hocus Pocus.

Hello everyone and welcome back to #moviemonday. Today I am taking a break from horror and instead I am talking about a fun, childhood classic. I simply couldn’t let the month of October pass by without talking about Hocus Pocus. 

Let’s dive into Movie Monday. 

Hocus Pocus was released in 1993, and it was directed by the brilliant Kenny Ortega. 

I think that it is only fair to mention the wickedly wonderful Sanderson sisters played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. These actresses deserve a special mention before we move into the movie discussion because they were an absolutely brilliant trio and I don’t think this movie would be the same without them. 

Plot

Max Dennison is the new kid on the block. His family have just moved to Salem, where Halloween is kind of a big deal. In his new school, his teacher tells the tale of the Sanderson sisters. According to the legend, they were three witches who used to lure children to their cottage so they could steal their souls and stay young forever. One of the children who lost their lives to the witches was poor Emily Binx, her older brother Thackery tried to save her but sadly he arrived too late. The witches punished him for interfering by turning him into a black cat, forcing him to live forever with the knowledge that he could not save his sister. The sisters were later hung for their witchcraft. 

There is a legend that says the witches will someday return, if a virgin lights the black flame candle but many claim that a black cat guards the old Sanderson house in order to ensure that the candle is never lit so that the witches can never return. Max’s entire class is entranced by the story, especially his crush Allison, but he is the sceptic. Max does not believe a word of the tale, that is until he lights the black flame candle. Now the witches are back, hellbent on stealing the souls of all the children in Salem. The movie follows Max as he and Allison must figure out a way to stop them, all while keeping his little sister Dani safe. 

Characters. 

Max Dennison is our protagonist. As I said, he is the new kid on the block. He is struggling to adjust to his new home. He gets picked on in school, and he just doesn’t see why everyone in town is so into Halloween. Max is a loving big brother and when the witches return, he is determined to keep his little sister Dani safe. Max is a smart, quick thinker, and it is often due to his quick thinking that he is able to outsmart the Sanderson sisters. 

Dani is Max’s little sister. She absolutely loves Halloween, and she appears to be finding it easier to settle in than Max. Dani is a sweetheart. She looks up to her big brother and enjoys spending time with him. Throughout the movie, she helps Max and Allison as they try to stop the Sanderson sisters, and Dani, like Max, shows quick thinking and bravery throughout the movie. 

Allison is Max’s crush. She loves Halloween too, and she believes the story of the Sanderson sisters. She doesn’t want Max to light the candle, which shows us that she is clearly superstitious despite being fascinated by the story. When the witches return, she works alongside Max to stop them, and she too is determined to keep Dani safe. 

Binx the black cat is Thackery Binx, and he has been guarding the Sanderson house for 300 years to make sure that no one lights the black flame candle, and he was doing a remarkable job until Max showed up. Binx acts as a guide for Max, Allison, and Dani, because it is Binx who knows about the witches and their history, and so he is able to provide knowledge that will help Max beat them. 

The Sanderson sisters are the movie’s antagonists. Winifred is the leader. Winifred is the oldest, most powerful witch of the trio and it seems that she is the driving force behind the plan to steal the souls of all the children in Salem so that she and her sisters can remain young forever. Winifred appears to be the master of spells, and it is her who makes the potion that drains the life out of the children, and it is her who casts the majority of spells in the movie, with her sisters Mary and Sarah simply assisting her. 

Mary is the middle sister, and she has the sniffing abilities of a bloodhound. Mary sniffs out the children and it is her keen sense of smell that nearly gets the gang caught on a few occasions. Mary acts as Winifred’s maid at times, she is always fussing over her and doing things for her, and pandering to Winifred’s emotional outbursts. 

Sarah is the youngest sister, and she is the prettiest. Sarah is the slightly stereotypical ditz, but it is Sarah who lures the children to their cottage with her siren like singing so her very pretty appearance is what makes her all the more dangerous because at first she doesn’t appear as scary as Winifred or Mary.  Sarah’s bubbly, ditzy personality means that people are more likely to let their guard down around her. 

 Themes. 

Hocus Pocus is a fun, nostalgic, childhood classic. It is funny. I feel like it is a movie that cannot be overlooked in October. Seeing as this is a fun, Halloween classic, the themes are not particularly complex in my opinion. I think that this movie is a very straightforward one, and there is an obvious theme of good vs evil throughout the movie as Max and the gang are the good guys, doing everything in their power to keep the town of Salem safe from the bad guys, the Sanderson sisters. 

Typically in these types of good vs evil stories, audiences are usually supposed to be rooting for the good guys, and while the Sanderson sisters are arguably fabulous, and they have some really funny lines, at the end of the day they are trying to steal the souls of children so I am definitely rooting for Max and the gang. The themes of love and family are definitely prominent in this movie. It was Thackery’s love for his little sister that drove him to intervene with the Sanderson sisters to try to save her. It was his regret about not being able to save her that kept him at the Sanderson house, guarding it for all those years so that no one else would would suffer because of the Sanderson sisters. It is Max’s love for his little sister Dani that drives him throughout the entire movie. He is determined to keep her safe and not allow any harm to come to her, and after nearly losing her, he vows to never take her for granted again, even if little sisters are a little annoying sometimes. 

If I was to analyse this movie in a more complex way, because all movies can be analysed, then I would say that greed is a minor theme in this movie. The Sanderson sisters are greedy. It is their want to stay young forever that drives them throughout the entire movie. The sisters, particularly Winifred, are also rather petty. They don’t want just any soul, they want to start with Dani’s because they are annoyed that she managed to outsmart them, insult them, and get away. I actually think that Winifred, Mary, and Sarah are really fun, interesting characters and I would love it if at some point we were given some backstory on them, or even a story that was focused more on their point of view, because I think that would be really fun, but in terms of talking about Hocus Pocus, they are the bad guys, and so while greed is definitely a minor theme, I would say that love and family, and good overcoming evil are the most prominent themes in this movie. 

Structure. 

Hocus Pocus is just over an hour and a half long. After watching it again, I think that it is a fast paced movie. I actually really love the straightforward but very informative storytelling that occurs in this movie. Straight away we are launched into the legend, and this movie does a lot of showing not telling, which is great. We see Emily being lured away to the Sanderson cottage, we see Thackery trying to save her, we see him being turned into a black cat. We see all of this, and then it is revealed that Max’s teacher is in fact telling this story to her class, 300 years later. Max scoffs at the story and straight away this sets up Max as the sceptical outsider. The movie takes place on Halloween so we know that the narrative is going to be contained within this one night. I actually like time constraints like this in movies when they are done well. The story taking place on Halloween sets the movie up to have a long night ahead, all of the action is going to take place on this one night, and as we get closer to sunrise, the stakes get higher. Max and the gang just have to survive until the sun comes up. The movie moves quickly. Once the sisters are back, the plot races to stop them. It is fun, the stakes are high, and the fast pace leads to the pivotal scene before the ending. The movie isn’t too long, but it isn’t too short either, and at no point does it feel ridiculous. It is a Halloween movie, it is a fantasy movie, so there is an element of suspending one’s disbelief when watching but that’s all part of the fun. After all, “it’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus.” 

Final Thoughts. 

My final thoughts are that this movie is so much fun. It is a Halloween classic, I watch it every October and I never get bored of it. The cast is perfect, the characters are memorable, and the story is fun, heartwarming, and easy to follow. I am really looking forward to the upcoming sequel. 

This has been Movie Monday. I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen Hocus Pocus? What’s a movie that you consider to be a Halloween classic? 

Kate xo. 

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