tek's rating:

Hocus Pocus (PG)
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This came out in 1993, but I don't remember when I first saw it. I'm sure I saw it on TV some October, and I'm fairly sure it was on Disney Channel, during a month-long block of Halloween programming. It could have been in the late 90s, or the early 2000s. (Probably prior to 2003, since that's the year I started keeping an annual Halloween journal, and I don't seem to have mentioned watching it in any of my entries.) Looking online now for information about Disney's annual October programming, I find that something called "Hauntober" took place in 2005 and 2006, while "Monstober" has aired from 2011 to the present, and there was at least one year in between with "Wiz-tober." And for several years now, Hocus Pocus has aired on ABC Family's "13 Nights of Halloween," instead of on Disney Channel. Of course, none of this matters, but not remembering things like this bugs me (as does not finding information online to confirm my belief that Disney Channel did something like Hauntober well before 2005). Anyway, whenever I first watched the movie, I don't think I was greatly impressed. But now it's like a cult classic with lots of fans. That doesn't mean I have to like it, but... for the past few years I've been thinking I should give it another watch, so I could write a review. And I thought maybe I'd find that I liked it better than I did the first time I saw it. Alas, I don't currently have Disney Channel or ABC Family, so... in 2015, I finally got the movie on DVD.

It begins on Halloween, 1693, in Salem. A young girl named Emily Binx is lured to the home of three witches, the Sanderson sisters: Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker). Winnie is the smartest of the three, and bosses the other two around. But Sarah's my favorite, because she's so amusingly ditzy. (She's also vital to the witches' plans, as she's the one with the power to lure children, with her song.) Anyway, Winnie has a spell book, covered in skin, and it has an eye. There's one spell in it she uses to mix a potion that must be fed to children, to steal their life force. Emily's older brother, Thackery, follows her to the witches' house, and tries to rescue her. However, he fails. They steal Emily's life force, making themselves look younger. Then Winnie curses Thackery to be immortal, and turns him into a black cat. But before they can do anything else, the towsfolk show up and hang the Sandersons. However, Winnie's last act before dying is to cast a spell that would allow a virgin to bring them back to life on Halloween night.

Three hundred years pass (so the bulk of the movie is set on Halloween, 1993). A teenager named Max Dennison (Omri Katz) has recently moved to Salem with his parents and his little sister, Dani (Thora Birch). He doesn't believe in the Sanderson sisters or any Halloweenish things. But he is interested in a girl in class named Allison. Anyway, Max and Dani's parents go to a party, and force Max to take Dani trick-or-treating. At one point, they stop in at a house where another party is going on, this one hosted by Allison's parents. When Allison and Dani start talking about the Sanderson sisters and a museum in their old house, which had been shut down some time ago, Max convinces them that the three of them should go to the museum together. While there, Max jokingly lights a candle that was part of the spell Winnie had cast, and in so doing, brings the Sandersons back to life. But he takes their spell book, and also meets Thackery Binx. (Binx has apparently learned to talk sometime in the past 300 years; he obviously couldn't do so in the past. He's also now voiced by Jason Marsden, though he was played by a different actor when he was still human.) Anyway, the Sanderson sisters will only remain alive until sunrise, unless they can steal the life force of more children. But Winnie can't remember all the ingredients for the potion, so they need to retrieve the book from Max, Allison, and Dani. But Binx has spent the last three centuries waiting for the witches to return, and now he helps the kids, while the witches chase them around town. And... a bunch of stuff happens that I don't want to spoil, but of course there's ultimately a happy ending.

Well, I actually did like the movie more than I remembered. It was reasonably amusing, though mostly the humor was just silly. But it was fun. And some parts were actually... good. Including a few moments that I found genuinely, you know, sort of heartwarming. Oh, also there was actually a jump scare that caught me off guard, at one point. And incidentally, while checking links to include at the top of this review, I learned that it was originally intended to be a Disney Channel Original Movie, which I don't recall having heard before. (Probably not actually a DCOM, considering that branding didn't start until 1997, but at least it might have been intended as a Disney Channel movie.) But now that I think about it, it really does have the feel of a DCOM, which is a good thing. I will say this is slightly better than most of those movies (though perhaps not as good as some of them), and I guess it does also feel more like a theatrical movie than any of them (even the few that are, arguably, better than this). And I guess I don't know what else to say, but I'm really happy to have seen it again.

Followed by Hocus Pocus 2

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