October's Daily Horror Dose #27 - Hocus Pocus

At this point Hocus Pocus could never live up to the legend surrounding it. For years, anyone I ever mentioned this movie to expressed their immediate love for it. My wife, my friends, everyone loves Hocus Pocus. And they don’t just love it, they loooooove it, making sure to stretch out the word. On top of that, I worked at a video store for two years where we had one lone VHS copy of Hocus Pocus. Not once did that movie get put on the shelf. It was either rented, or we had a list of people waiting to rent it. Not just at Halloween, but all year round. We even had people offer to buy our copy. I can’t accept we possessed the sole copy on the planet, but it sure felt like it.

The time had come to finally sit down and watch it. And yes one could argue that this barely qualifies as a horror movie, but one could also argue that you should SHUT YOUR GOD DAMN MOUTH!

So Hocus Pocus is a 1993 film (holy hell that really hits home how old I am) about this group of witches who start the movie by sucking the life force out of a little girl so they can become younger. Her older brother sees this happen so they force him to live forever as a cat. Then they are hung. It sounds pretty intense for a kids movie, and maybe it is. But kids can take this shit man, they’re tougher than you think. You ever see The Goonies? Of course you have because you and I are rational human beings. That has nothing to do with anything, just The Goonies is good stuff.

So we cut to the present where we are introduced to generic 90’s looking kid. Seriously, he looks like every young male star from that era. I’m not convinced that he isn’t one of the Home Improvement kids. He gets bullied by lame 90’s bullies (who would so be the victims in a movie made now) and whines a lot about how he hates that they moved, he misses his friends, etc. Then we meet his younger sister, played by a young Thora Birch. She’s awesome. Here’s this 8-year-old who tells this guy to man the fuck up and deal with it. Their relationship is actually the best part of the movie, since she’s not your typical bratty little sister. She genuinely looks up to him and he actually cares about her. They barely fight or bicker, they get along from start to finish. You don’t see that dynamic a lot in these movies so I appreciated that.

So this guy, he doesn’t believe any of the nonsense this town (Salem for the record, so really this dude should have expected witches) is peddling so he lights this candle that brings back the witches. And now they’re gonna eat them some kids. But our heroes don’t support the eating of kids, so they have to put a stop to this. And from there we’re off and running.

The witches themselves are pretty good, played more for laughs than as legitimate threats but I mean what do you expect really. There is some of that fish out of water humour where they are adjusting to the time period, but they don’t overdo it and while some of the jokes don’t land, some are pretty ok. I do like their discovery that Halloween has completely changed from their time. My favourite of the three witches actually ended up being a young, and surprisingly attractive, Sarah Jessica Parker. She plays the horny ditz witch who flirts with people and just randomly jumps around and giggles and acts like an idiot. Again though, they don’t overdo it so she has just the right amount of quirk. Bette Midler is the head witch and does well, going over-the-top but never in a distracting way. Kathy Najimy is....fine.

Something strange about this movie that I kinda dig is the bizarre way they treat the fact the main character is a virgin. You see only a virgin can light the candle and bring the witches back, and whenever someone says the word “virgin”, they say it with such contempt, like “what the fuck is wrong with this kid”. Aren’t they supposed to be like 14? Wouldn’t virgins be somewhat plentiful at that age? I guess Salem kids are down to bone real early. It’s also a strange overall message of “you best get rid of that virginity kids, cuz you don’t want to fuck with no witches right?” It’s just so strange, but also pretty awesome.

Also they never let those bullies out of those cages do they? So presumably our final glimpse of them is about 12 hours before they starve to death alone and afraid.

I can’t share the same love for Hocus Pocus the rest of the planet seems to have, but I can see the appeal. It’s a fun, silly movie with some likable characters, some decent humour, and a bizarre hatred for virgins. It’s one I doubt I’ll revisit too often, but this one viewing was enjoyable at least.

Though it’s incredibly creepy watching young Thora Birch and knowing that a mere six years later she’ll show her boobs. Sorry for ruining Hocus Pocus for you.