In Defence Of The Sanderson Sisters, The Misunderstood Witches Of ‘Hocus Pocus’
By Louis Costello
1993 flick Hocus Pocus is one of those movies that deserves to be studied at uni. Hell, give it to primary school students while you’re at it.
It has the makings of everything to love about movies: A-grade actors, balls-to-the-wall campness and one-liners that are still thrown around today.
What really irks me though is that the Sanderson sisters – Bette Midler‘s Winifred, Sarah-Jessica Parker‘s Sarah (bold, creative, revolutionary) and Kathy Najimy‘s Mary – were treated like the villains. The downright nerve of some viewers. Were we even watching the same movie?
Before I get to my reasoning which is both incredibly valid and extensively researched, let me just paint a little picture for the fools who are yet to see the cult classic.
Hocus Pocus follows Max (Omri Katz), a high school kid who’s just moved from LA to Salem with his younger sister Dani (a baby Thora Birch).
Max, being a standard lad, gets the hots for his classmate Allison (Vinessa Shaw) and after a series of shenanigans, they end up at an abandoned house once owned by alleged witches aka the Sanderson sisters.
Given that it’s Halloween and Max is trying to impress Allison by being all here-I’ll-open-that-jar-for-you-madame-I’m-shredded, the numpty goes ahead and accidentally resurrects the Sanderson sisters. Easy mistake, who hasn’t resurrected a witch at least once in their life? I’ve done it thrice.
So Winifred, Sarah and Mary are alive and seeing as they’ve been chilling in hell for 300 years, they’re pretty stoked. They’re also keen to pursue the hobby they didn’t quite finish – sucking the soul out of children’s bodies and fashioning said soul into a nifty anti-ageing home remedy.
Quick side note: at the start of the film and 300 years before we’re introduced to Max, the Sandersons are executed for sucking the soul out of and killing Emily, the younger sister of Thackery Binx (who’s also turned into a black cat for eternity).
The rest of the movie revolves around Winifred, Sarah and Mary trying to inhale a child’s soul before sunset because if they don’t, they explode into a colourful ball of dust/glitter. Max, Allison and Dani all serve as the heroes trying to fend off the witches and their parents are just absolutely clueless throughout the entire film so let’s just ignore them.
Now, let’s get to the Sanderson sisters’ defence.
So they killed Emily, that was a bit of a faux pas. But also, can you blame them? I can’t imagine the year 1693 was particularly kind on aging and while we’ve come a long way in the battle against ageism, I suspect that once you hit a certain age in the 17th century you were considered nothing but chopped liver spots.
Plus, do we even know much about Emily? Was she nice? Perhaps she was one of those kids who would ask to trade lunches and when you hand over yours, she just keeps both of them and runs off. Not saying that deserves having your soul snatched by witches but you know, it’s pretty annoying.
Then there’s ol’ mate Max. I don’t know if Max was fully informed when he decided to commit the crime of breaking and entering, but anyone over the age of 12 knows that you should just avoid going down that route altogether.
That’s why I find it surprising that after Max breaks into the three witches’ property, resurrects them against their will and steals their spellbook, we as the viewers are supposed to feel sympathy for Max and co.? Dude, you made this happen. Don’t start blaming dead witches for your mess, they’re just doing what comes naturally to them. It’s like hanging out with your mate when you knowingly have the flu and then blaming the virus when they start coughing. I think? That might be a stretch.
I think it’s also imperative to remind everyone that to the Sanderson sisters, Halloween is no joke. Halloween is a sacred tradition that has been hijacked by us modern folk so we have an excuse to carb-load on refined sugar. And to dress up, I guess.
So you can imagine the horror of Winifred, Sarah and Mary when they discover that their tradition has been butchered within an inch of its life. I’d be throwing tanties all over the joint too.
And finally, I’d like to draw attention to our survival instinct. When faced with death, we as humans and witches are programmed (don’t quote me on this) to do whatever we can to stay alive.
The Sanderson sisters know that they have mere hours to track down a child’s soul before they combust, so they’re faced with a difficult choice: kill or be killed.
Don’t act like you wouldn’t choose the first option. You’re no better than the rest of us.