As we gear up for Halloween season, it’s time to dust off your favorite DVDs, or in the case of 1993’s Hocus Pocus, fire up Hulu for your annual viewing. Though this Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi starring movie didn’t fare well at the box office upon its original theatrical release, it has since garnered cult-classic status through home viewing on networks like Disney Channel and Freeform, resulting in a long-awaited 2022 sequel.
And we’re glad that it did because not only has Hocus Pocus proved itself to be a fun movie for all ages, its humor still holds up to this day.
Hocus Pocus is streaming on Hulu.
Hocus Pocus tells the story of three witches known as the Sanderson sisters. After murdering a young Salem girl named Emily in 1693, Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) are publicly hanged for their crimes, but they left a curse behind. The curse dictates that if a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle in their cottage during a full moon on All Hallow’s Eve, they will be resurrected and bring their reign of terror into a new generation.
Though Thackery Binx, Emily’s older brother who was transformed into a black cat after witnessing the witches’ crimes, did a great job guarding their cottage for 300 years, his efforts were no match for Max Dennison, a virgin teenager who accidentally lights the candle while trick-or-treating with his younger sister, Dani.
But what makes Hocus Pocus truly stand the test of time is the notion that a brother and sister could put their differences aside, and put their minds together to save Salem, Massachusetts…
Though the synopsis for Hocus Pocus sounds particularly gruesome, the supernatural comedy pulls no stops after establishing its story. Once the Sanderson Sisters come back to life, we’re met with a comedy of errors that is fun for the whole family.
While Max (Omri Katz) and Dani (Thora Birch) portray a realistic relationship between a teenage brother and his 8-year-old sister that’s not without humor, a majority of the laughs come from the Sanderson sisters, who have plenty of quirks that make you wish they weren’t the primary antagonists.
Winifred is the lead witch, and the oldest of the Sanderson sisters in Hocus Pocus. Despite her power and intelligence, she is often held back by her youngest sister, Sarah, who is dumber than a sack of potatoes. The middle sister, Mary, boasts a superior sense of smell, and her innate ability to sniff out children allows the witches to track down their targets so they can suck the life out of a child so they don’t get turned into dust by sunrise.
But what makes Hocus Pocus truly stand the test of time is the notion that a brother and sister could put their differences aside, and put their minds together to save Salem, Massachusetts from being plagued by the centuries-old witches who bicker more than your mother-in-law after you overcooked the roast at a family gathering.
Hocus Pocus 2 quickly became a fan favorite, and was the most watched straight-to-streaming title within the first three days of its Disney+ release.
Upon its release, Hocus Pocus took a beating on the critical front, and to this day has a critical score of 39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. To add insult to injury, Hocus Pocus‘ initial box office numbers stood to lose Disney over $16 million with its initial theatrical run.
But thanks to home viewing and subsequent DVD sales, the film performed so well over the past three decades that it not only became profitable, but was green-lit for a 2022 sequel in which Midler, Parker, and Najimy reprised their roles.
From an audience perspective, Hocus Pocus garnered a 72 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, which goes to show you that the critics, while justified with some of their criticisms, didn’t realize the staying power this film truly had when it first premiered.
It goes without saying that Hocus Pocus became a Halloween staple over the years for many families, and for good reason. Not only is it highly amusing to watch witches ride around on vacuum cleaners and mops because they can’t find enough brooms that are equipped for supernatural air travel, one can’t help but draw the comparison between the Sanderson sisters and Patty and Selma from The Simpsons with their constant sibling rivalries despite their common goal.
2022’s Hocus Pocus 2 quickly became a fan favorite, and was the most watched straight-to-streaming title within the first three days of its Disney+ release. Fans of the original movie will appreciate all of the callbacks to the original film, and notice how the humor and storytelling not only evokes a feeling of nostalgia, but also updates the premise for a modern audience.
In other words, we now have two Hocus Pocus films that will make their rounds every Halloween season, and families can watch them back-to-back if they want to watch something that’s superficially spooky, but won’t keep their kids up at night.