Now that the studios are releasing all of their catalog titles onto Blu-ray I’ve been able to watch films that I haven’t seen in years, one of which was HOCUS POCUS. Growing up my family was never that into Halloween and horror movies were a genre that never entered our home, so HOCUS POCUS was about as “in the Halloween spirit” that we ever got. I fully expected to be disappointed when re-watching this film, but was surprised that I enjoyed it just as much today as I did almost 20 years ago.
HOCUS POCUS follows the story of the Sanderson sisters (played fantastically by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker), three witches who terrorized the town of Salem, MA in 1793 by luring children into their home to suck out their lives in order to makes themselves younger and live forever. When the townspeople finally hung them, the Sanderson sisters cast a spell that would bring them back for one night on Halloween so they could have one more shot at immortality. Of course, 300 years later a couple of kids broke that curse and set the three sisters loose to wreak havoc in the 20th century.
One of the most entertaining aspects about this film is the performances of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and especially Sarah Jessica Parker. When these three ladies are on screen you can’t take your eyes off of them. Sure there are corny parts of the story and cheesy lines thrown about, but the charisma Midler, Najimy and Parker bring to the mix is so much fun. Part of that is due to the direction of Kenny Ortega (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, NEWSIES, FOOTLOOSE remake), who knows this is a campy and fun joyride for the audience and sets the tone as such. The kids in the film (played by Omri Katz, Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw) did fine with what they had, but if anything I wanted more of the sisters and less of the banter between the siblings.
The acting was great, but what stands out in my mind most is Bette Midler’s rendition of “I Put A Spell On You”, which she sings to the group of adults in the film and puts them under a dancing spell. I know it’s horribly cheesy, but I memorized the song years ago and since my recent viewing of HOCUS POCUS I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It’s so catchy and because it’s sung by Bette Midler it’s actually pretty good. The song plus Sarah Jessica Parker acting like a complete idiot throughout the movie is one of the reasons I find HOCUS POCUS so darn charming and why it continues to be one of my guilty pleasure films.
Even though it’ll cause me endless harassing from my spouse, I will probably once again make watching HOCUS POCUS an annual Fall tradition in our household. With so many gruesome and terrifying films about Halloween out there, I find it a little comforting that there is a family friendly film with a catchy song and not too scary of a plot that I can let our future children watch during the haunting season.
Video: An excellent transfer for this 1993 classic.
Audio: The audio sounded fantastic.