by Caitlin Marceau
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Buena Vista Pictures
If that didn’t automatically make you think of a shrill, red-haired, toothy Bette Midler, then your childhood was severely underwhelming.
Hocus Pocus follows the story of the Winifred Sanderson (Midler), and her two sisters, Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy), who have risen from the grave three hundred years after they were accidentally summoned by Max Dennison (Omri Katz). Having been hanged for killing a young girl (they drank her life force in order to stay young), the sisters are back and determined to stay young forever… even if that means killing all the children in Salem.
A cult classic, Hocus Pocus has become a staple of Halloween for most millennials over the last decade, with an increasing number of friends relating more to the Sandersons now than they ever did Max’s character growing up. Winifred is iconic, with over-the-top hair and makeup, a bitter dislike of mornings and the sun, not to mention palpable contempt for children. She’s fierce, quick witted, and looks out for her sisters (when she’s not yelling at them for their stupidity). There’s something to be said for her unapologetic attitude, her refusal to take sh*t from anyone, and her unique style… you know, once you get over the fact that she’s looking to steal the souls of children in order to prevent crow’s feet. And let’s not forget her iconic rendition of Jalacy Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You,” which was first released in 1956.
Although the film can be a bit (okay, a lot) childish at times, it’s still a fun watch with some surprisingly disturbing story elements. The Sanderson sisters killed a child, turned another one into a cat for all eternity (not to mention refused to tell the parents what happened to him), and then compel modern-day children to leave their beds in the middle of the night so they can walk to their untimely doom. The hero of the story locks the witches in an oven and cooks them alive after they curse the all the parents in the town to dance until they die from exhaustion, and he doesn’t seem to face any ethical dilemma at the idea of murder.
The film isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot of fun and a great chance to see both Sarah Jessica Parker before she played the lead on Sex And The City (1998-2004), and Bette Midler in what’s arguably one of her best role yet.