Hocus Pocus (VHS, 2003)

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Bette Midler Shined as an Evil Witch in Hocus Pocus

Oct 31, 2007 (Updated Oct 13, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fun, entertaining, Halloween movie with good cast.

Cons:Few dark elements that may bother some people.

The Bottom Line: Hocus Pocus is a very entertaining and fun family friendly Halloween movie. Fans of the cast should give it a try.


I have seen several different movies dealing with witches over the years and I have enjoyed most of them. I just tend to like movies and books that deal with witches and the supernatural. I really liked Hocus Pocus but I hadn't seen it for a few years. I did find it on television a few times this year, but I always missed part of it, so I decided to look for the DVD. I decided to get it when I found it for $7.00 and I just watched it again.

In Salem Massachusetts in 1693, the Sanderson sisters were witches. Winnie, Mary, and Sarah needed children for a potion they were brewing that would give them life and make them young again. Thackery Binx tried to save his younger sister Emily from the sisters but ended up turned into a cat that couldn’t die instead. The townspeople managed to catch the sisters and they were able to cast a spell that would allow them to return under a few specific conditions before they were hung.

Stories about the Sanderson sisters were still being told in Salem 300 years later when Max and Dani Dennison moved to town with their parents. Max wasn’t happy about the move and he was having some trouble fitting in. He didn’t like Halloween or believe the stories about the sisters. He had to take Dani trick or treating and they ended up going to the former home of the sisters with Allison, a girl that he had a crush on. Max accidently brought the sisters back and then had to try to stop them from making their potion and taking children again. Max, Allison, and Dani received some help from Thackery who was still around in his cat form and able to talk to them.

Magic and witchcraft played an important part in Hocus Pocus. Winnie, Mary, and Sarah were shown doing magic at different times throughout the movie. They weren’t good witches, so their spells weren’t exactly nice. A connection was made between the witches and Satan which might bother some people. Allison, Max, and Dani did end up using some spells for protection at one point that didn’t harm anyone else. I liked the way the witches were handled in the movie. It was sort of a cliche to have them harm children and made certain things somewhat predictable. Having the sisters live in Salem Massachusetts did add a touch of realism since that is where the witch trials actually happened. It would have been interesting if more good magic had been used to deal with the sisters. I also would have liked it if there had been just a bit more magic. A few other supernatural elements, like ghosts and a zombie, also turned up a few times. The movie took place on Halloween, so it is a good movie to watch that time of year.

Hocus Pocus was family friendly for the most part. I do think there are a few things that could upset younger children though, so parents may want to watch the movie first to decide if their child could handle what was going on. The sisters were evil witches who wanted to use children to restore their youth which might disturb some viewers. They aren’t the first evil or wicked witches to turn up in movies aimed at children but their actions might still bother or disturb younger children. There were some darker elements in the movie that could concern parents. It was sort of shown when the sisters were executed, which is something else that could bother younger viewers. I thought the movie was very entertaining and not scary at all though some children might think it is scary in some places. The fact that the movie really wasn’t suspenseful and didn’t have any surprises didn’t make the movie less enjoyable. There wasn’t any violence in the movie even though some characters were harmed, usually by a spell of some sort. There was a minor amount of swearing by a few characters.

When Winnie, Mary, and Sarah, came back, they didn’t know how much time had passed or what had changed in the world. They quickly discovered that things were very different from what they remembered and they had to try to adapt in a hurry while carrying out their plan. The ways they reacted and dealt with certain things did add humor to the movie. Some of it was a little silly. I thought it was really funny when Mary was forced to fly around on an old vacuum cleaner after her broom had been stolen. It was also entertaining to see the sisters react to the fact that Halloween had become a popular holiday for children. They were shocked when they saw children running around town in costumes. I think most of the humor came from the sisters dealing with things in the modern world. Other characters also said and did things that I thought were funny.

When Hocus Pocus began, the sisters looked very old. It wasn’t a good look for any of them. They were able to restore some of their youth before being captured, so their appearances did change. I think some kind of make up effects were used to make them look so much older at first. Even once they were younger looking, they did still have somewhat unique looks, especially Winnie. It was her mouth that really gave her the unique look and I’m thinking that the look was achieved with some kind of make up. Special effects were used in a few scenes, usually when the sisters were doing a spell or using magic. The effects were well done and fit in with the movie well.

The movie basically revolved around Winnie, Mary, and Sarah even though they weren’t shown for a while once the movie jumped forward 300 years. Winnie was the smartest of the sisters and in charge. She was always bossing her sisters around, and frequently got annoyed with their antics. Bette Midler was wonderful in the part. She was delightfully evil as Winnie and this really was one of her better performances. I think it has been mostly over looked because it was in a movie aimed at children. Neither Mary or Sarah were that bright and they frequently managed to mess up because of it. Sarah was the most attractive of all three sisters, and men did seem to be drawn to her. Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy were great in the parts. All three of them briefly sang.

Thackery was a teenager when the sisters managed to entice his little sister Emily to their home. He tried to rescue her but failed and ended up cursed to live as a cat that couldn’t die. He stayed in Salem and tended to watch over the house every Halloween to try to prevent anyone from bringing the sisters back. Sean Murray was mostly providing a voice since Thackery was a cat for the majority of the movie. Amanda Shepherd really didn’t have much to do since Emily was barely in the movie.

Max was very unhappy about moving to Salem. He didn’t like Halloween and was getting annoyed with everyone around being so caught up in the day and stories about the sisters. He didn’t believe in the stories which was how he ended up bringing them back. That quickly changed his opinion and he was determined to stop them after that. Omri Katz was fine in the part. Dani seemed to really like Halloween and wasn’t as upset about the move. She was around in most of the movie without really receiving much development. Thora Birch handled the part well. Allison was the girl that Max had a crush on. She didn’t seem to be interested in him in any way, but she ended up going with them and got pulled into the mess with the sisters. Vinessa Shaw was fine in the part. Max and Dani’s parents were only around in a few short scenes so they didn’t have much to do.

Main Cast

Thora Birch - Dani
Omri Katz - Max
Bette Midler - Winnie
Sean Murray - Thackery
Kathy Najimy - Mary
Sarah Jessica Parker - Sarah
Vinessa Shaw - Allison
Amanda Shepherd - Emily

Kenny Ortega - Director

DVD Information

My copy of Hocus Pocus has the widescreen version of the movie. I haven’t seen a full screen version. The DVD didn’t have any extras, which was a bit disappointing. It would have been nice if there was something on the making of the movie.

Hocus Pocus was a fun, entertaining family friendly Halloween movie that is worth seeing. The fact that there were dark elements in the movie might bother some people but I still feel it is worth watching. Fans of the cast, especially Bette Midler, should give the movie a chance.

This review is part of CaptainD’s Good Movies Write Off.


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