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Hocus Pocus continues to be one of the best Halloween movies of all time

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RVA Mag
Hocus Pocus continues to be one of the best Halloween movies of all time
By Jessica Norman
Oct 28, 2014

2-17-2015 5-08-55 PM

It’s that time of year again! Halloween is a few days away and the seasonal-themed movies are coming at us from all directions.

Due to a recent drought in excellent Halloween-themed films, it’s a challenge for a film lover to choose which one to devote our undivided attention to in honor of Halloween. Sometimes even the healthiest dose of Michael Myers and the creepiest theme-music in film history doesn’t quite satisfy all the needs of the viewer in search of that classic which never goes out of style.

Well look no further. 1993’s American horror comedy Hocus Pocus is here to satisfy your every Halloween need. And due to the recent rise in devoted Sanderson Sister lovers, it will be the perfect Halloween pick for many more years to come.

For anyone whose childhood was not complete due to never seeing this film, Hocus Pocus is a family friendly film with unforgettable performances by all star actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, and the timeless Bette Midler.

The film opens with the story of Mary, Sarah, and Winifred Sanderson, three witches who were hanged in Salem, MA in 1693 for practicing witchcraft, sucking the life out of Salem’s children in order to preserve their youth and beauty.

Emily Binx is the Sanderson sisters’s last victim. Her brother Zachery tries to save her but is too late. Winifred changes him into a black cat and the enchantment gives him eternal life.

Before the sisters swing for their crimes, Winifred casts a spell that gives her and her sisters another chance at immortality – if a virgin lights their magic black-flamed candle on All Hallows Eve, they shall return to life.

300 years later, during a modern-day 90’s Halloween, we are introduced to a cynical virgin named Max Dennison. While visiting the witches’ old house, Max, in an attempt to impress his crush Allison and freak out his little sister Dani, lights the candle.

Winifred’s spell works, and the sisters return, with only hours before sunrise allowing to them to seal their immortality once and for all. The film’s magic unfolds as the kids desperately make any and all attempts to stop the witches–aided by Binx, the black cat from 300 years ago.

Hocus Pocus is one of the most widely loved portrayals of witches in film and television history, but this most certainly would not be the case if it were not for the talents of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy.

Mary Sanderson (Najimy) has a special power for sniffing out children. Najimy plays Mary as the dim-witted lackey to Midler’s character. However, she is portrayed with a humor appealing to adults, adolescences, and children alike, making Mary a favorite to watch.

Sarah Jessica Parker steals our hearts as the most humorous Sanderson sister, Sarah. Even more dim-witted than Mary, Parker not only has the hilarious dialogue, but is the most animated about her lack of intelligence. Her main focus is the opposite sex; for her, ignorance will always be bliss.

Her power is in her ability to enchant unsuspecting children with a lullaby; the sound of her voice bewitches the children to follow her wherever she needs them to go.

The leader of the pack and the most powerful of the three is Midler’s character, Winifred Sanderson. Winnie is the most dangerous, the most intense, and the most fun to watch as she feverishly works with her dense sisters to try to retrieve her spell book, brew her potion, and suck the lives out of enough children to keep her young and beautiful forever.

In true Bette Midler fashion, she plays this character with an impressive range; no one else could have pulled it off. Winnie goes from raging to giddy to emotional to distressed to happy or powerful again over and over throughout the film. The character is an exciting roller-coaster ride through Midler’s amazing acting abilities.

Hocus Pocus really has it all. Thanks to the talents of Parker, Midler, and Najimy, we have the best rendition of “I Put A Spell On You” that anyone from the 90’s generation can remember.

Even the minor characters are perfect. Everyone has their favorite moment–Dani not realizing her mom is dressed up as Madonna; Ernie or “Ice” stealing Max’s shoes; Sarah spinning the bullies around in a cage, and who could forget the zombie getting his fingers cut off by the sewer lid? The characters are simplistic, but the result is a film that is blissfully uncomplicated and remains the most-viewed Halloween film in cable television history.

If you’re asking “Why?” the question should really be “Why not?” Everything about Hocus Pocus is refreshingly uncomplicated.

The film takes us back to a time when a good story was all we needed to achieve enjoyment from a Halloween film. Even though critics gave this truly awesome film a hard time when it debuted, it has more than doubled in its popularity since its original release in theaters.

The legacy of Hocus Pocus would not have been possible without the millions who look forward to seeing it at this time of year, every year.

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