Is ‘Hocus Pocus’ worth the hype?


Olivia Moreno

“Hocus Pocus” is a Halloween movie released in 1993. The movie tells the tale of Max, Allison, and Dani as they figure out ways to defeat the Sanderson sisters on Halloween Night.

Danielle Braune, Staff Writer

As soon as October rolls around, the Halloween movie binge-watching begins; you see it all over Twitter: “you know what it’s time for!” followed by a picture of a trio of iconic witches: one reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, one whose twisty purple locks look like a witch hat of their own, and one topped with two plumes of auburn hair.

Megan Austin

Of course, I’m referring to the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus. Just about everyone on the planet has seen it…

…but me. I haven’t been avoiding it, nor have I actively sought out to watch the film for myself. So, this Halloween, I finally, finally decided to see if Hocus Pocus was really worth the hype, if it really is an enduring Halloween classic worth rewatching annually. 

The film opens in 1693 Salem, Massachusetts, where Thackery Binx wakes up in his and his sister’s bedroom— alone. His sister, Emily, who he shares a bed with, was not there.

The movie then cuts to the Sanderson sisters snatching away Emily and were caught using their witch powers to absorb Emily’s life force to keep themselves young (as well as turn Thackery into an immortal black cat). These witches were then hanged, with the promise that they’d “be back!”

Then, the viewers are thrust into 1993 Salem— such a dramatic shift that sent my head spinning. I was not expecting this, but it made sense considering the next scene, where we meet our main character, Max. 

Max doesn’t believe in magic or witchcraft; in fact, while exploring the Sanderson house-turned-museum later on, he downplays it all as “just a bunch of hocus pocus.”

During that same scene, to impress his love interest, Allison, Max lights up the Black Flame Candle and summons the witches back to life on Halloween night. The rest of the film is dedicated to Allison, Max, and his younger sister, Dani, fleeing from the witches with the Sanderson sister’s stolen spellbook, trying to figure out ways to somehow defeat them— for once and for all. We also get to see the witches and their hilarious antics as they navigate the 20th century. 

Most movies containing high schoolers cast adults to play adolescents, which sets unrealistic standards for what a teenager should look like. However, in Hocus Pocus, the actors behind Allison and Max were believable for their roles! Both were seventeen years old when the movie was released in 1993! 

While Allison and Max’s ages were believable, their romance certainly was not. I argue that it shouldn’t have been in the film in the first place. It’s just the same cliché: the new, ‘uncool’ kid in school does something heroic and scores the girl of his dreams, and they’re all heart-eyed with each other throughout the climax of the film and its end… ugh. It’s so unrealistic, awkward, cringe-worthy— every sophisticated synonym for ‘gross’ that you can think of applies here. 

I wish the screenwriters ditched the half-baked romance in favor of amping up the inter-sibling relationship between Dani and Max to demonstrate how it parallels that of Emily and Thackery Binx; after all, the film commenced with a conflict involving two siblings. Why not continue on this idea by focusing solely on Dani and Max, and how they evade the witches and defeat them together? It makes so much sense! 

Side note: let’s talk about Allison. I love female characters, but she was written so poorly and thus adds nothing to this film. She’s given no character development whatsoever and solely exists to prompt Max to be careless and to light the Black Flame Candle. She also exists to eventually help him achieve one of his “goals:” getting the girl of his dreams; this is an entirely different, almost misogynistic problem in literature I could go on and on about, but we’ll pin that argument for another day. Long story short, her character is flat and contributes not a single thing to the story. 

Despite all I’ve ranted about thus far, there are many things Hocus Pocus manages to nail: the humor, the sibling connections, and the emotional beats.

The Sanderson sisters are absolutely hilarious. When they come into contact with concrete for the first time and think it’s a dark river? Priceless. When the witches swapped out their real brooms for two modern-day ones and a vacuum cleaner? That killed me. 

Any antagonist who can be both funny and mildly chilling is a well-rounded villain in my book, which these witches are. Not only can they make fools of themselves when they mistake a man in a red devil costume for Satan himself, but they can also make plans to devour the souls of all of the children in the neighborhood— now that’s range. 

Regarding sibling relationships, this film highlights how little, petty arguments are nothing compared to the love and bottomless compassion one sibling feels for the other, and how they’d do anything to keep the other safe— we see this again and again with Dani and Max, whether it be fending off bullies, or fending off witches. As a sibling myself, this message ran true with me. Crying was the last thing I thought would happen when I would watch this movie, but cry I did (twice) at these touching brother-sister moments. The first time I shed some tears was when Thackery gave some advice to Max about having a younger sister… 

“Take good care of Dani, Max. You’ll never know how precious she is until you lose her.”

Maybe this line hit differently because I share a name with Dani and I’m a younger sibling, or maybe it was because the emotional beat was perfectly timed.

During the finale, another strong emotional beat struck (that I won’t spoil) that made me sniffle a little. My reactions go to show that it would’ve been a better film overall had the story focused more on inter-sibling relationships.

However, I’m not here to criticize the quality of this film— I’m here to decide if it’s worth the hype, if it’s a Halloween classic worth watching. So, is it?

I’m very late to the party, but yes, absolutely! Hocus Pocus is 100% a fun, lighthearted, enduring Halloween classic! Not all great movies have to be Best Picture-worthy films. If you can make me laugh, smile, cry, and gasp, all in one film, that qualifies it as a classic to me— no matter the season or genre. 

Happy Halloween, everyone!