Saturday, 31 October 2015

Film Review: Hocus Pocus (1993)


© Disney | Source: collider.com
USA; 96 min.; comedy, family, fantasy
Director: Kenny Ortega
Writing: David Kirschner, Mick Garris
Cinematography: Hiro Narita
Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw

Bubble, bubble! I'm in trouble! - Bus driver (encountering the Sanderson Sisters)

Hocus Pocus – the evergreen, the classic, the monster of a family-fun movie! How do you even form some sort of verdict?! No idea, but here’s my attempt:

When Disney released this movie in July 1993, it’s doubtful they thought they would create a film that would reflect Halloween’s status as a favorite holiday for the whole family – not just the adult horror freaks or young trick-or-treaters.

Hocus Pocus tells the story of three witches of Salem, the Sanderson Sisters, who are accidentally resurrected 300 years after their execution, on Halloween night 1993. They have just that one night to secure their return to life. Only Max (a Salem and Halloween skeptic) and his little sister Dani, who are new in town, and Binx, the feline nemesis of the witches, can stop them. All right then. The whole occasion of Halloween of course calls for the fantastical and dark, but Hocus Pocus really can’t deliver all that darkness and ridicules it at every other corner.

Indeed, to me, that’s the beauty of the movie and the secret to its success. It wasn’t a box-office hit when it was first released, but annual television reruns helped secure its place in the homes of America and around the world. The charm of Hocus Pocus and the reason it’s a cult classic 22 years on, is that indeed everyone in the family can enjoy it – for all kinds of  different reasons. Young children may indeed be spooked by the graveyard scenes and mean witches, but also charmed by the spell book with a face and the talking cat. Older kids can then discover the more comical features of the film and realize it isn’t as scary as they remembered it. Musical lovers will enjoy the opulent costumes of the witches and the people at the masquerade ball, as well as catchy musical numbers. The proud all-American will rejoice in Disney’s shallow attempt at historical grounding and national mythology by invoking the witch trials of Salem. Parents love the joyfull “ooohs” and “ahhhs” their kids make watching it, while stuffing their faces with candy. And the rest of us simply enjoy the trashy, Sharknado-like ridicule of it all, while reveling in childhood nostalgia.

So, if you aren’t hitting the Halloween party train tonight, gather ‘round the TV with your loved ones and let Bette Midler put a spell on you. Happy Halloween, guys!

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