No October is complete without a viewing of Hocus Pocus. It's not only among the best Halloween movies ever made, but the film's heady blend of capital-A acting, scary witchcraft, and adult subtext turns a pretty basic story into a cult classic.
Before it went into production, the Hocus Pocus movie was only meant to be a Disney Channel special that played in October. But according to the documentary Hocus Pocus: Begin the Magic, someone at Disney read the script and realized how good it was. Instead of falling through the cracks, it ended up being a showcase for Bette Midler, Thora Birch, and Sarah Jessica Parker – not to mention that cat.
Hocus Pocus wasn't a hit when it was released in 1993, but it's become a minor sensation since. Part of that is due to the movie's wickedly subversive streak. Hocus Pocus features a lot of sex, straight up child murder, and a very fresh take on witchcraft. It's an anomaly among Disney’s filmography, and that’s what makes it so good.
The Adults Actually Act Like Adults
In most children’s movies, whether made by Disney or not, adults are made out to be these arch creatures who only exist to torment children and banish them to their rooms without dinner. Hocus Pocus offers a different view of adults as sometimes goofy, but ultimately reasonable humans. These parents aren’t overbearing, they’re not mean, they just want wear costumes and party. They’re drunken, sex-crazed maniacs like every other adult in the world.53520Agree or disagree?
Everyone LOVES Halloween
The citizens of real-world Salem, MA, probably like Halloween well enough, but no one loves Halloween the way the fictional residents of Salem do in Hocus Pocus. If you don’t pick this up from all of the elaborate decorations and over-the-top costume parties, there’s one scene that tells you all you need to know about how Salem feels about Halloween.
Early in the first act, when California boy Max talks about how “Halloween was invented by the candy companies,” he immediately has his butt handed to him by Allison, who points out that Halloween is based on a pagan ritual. The entire classroom erupts into frenzied applause. Don’t mess with Halloween in this town.52217Agree or disagree?
It Suggests That Immortality Is Terrible
Regardless of whether you’re watching a children’s movie or not, having multiple characters discuss their displeasure with living forever is a heavy existential idea to digest.
Thackery Binx is cursed to live forever in the body of a cat, a fate regarded as much worse than death. The audience sees him hit by a bus, and even whomped by the witches a few times, and each of his post “death” lines are imbued with more sadness than the last. This is an insane concept, but it does make Hocus Pocus feel like it has more of an emotional weight than any other run-of-the-mill holiday film.48515Agree or disagree?
There’s No Moral Lesson
Pretty much every Disney movie has a moral lesson the characters are supposed to learn by the end. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs it’s “don’t talk to strangers,” and “real beauty comes from within,” and in Peter Pan it’s "you have to get older, but you don’t have to grow up."
Hocus Pocus doesn’t really have one simple message. Instead, it's just about teaming up for survival. That makes it less stodgy and a whole lot more fun.45217Agree or disagree?