The '90s produced a plethora of 'okay' movies that gained a huge cult following as time went by. Despite the fact that 'child-friendly' movies from that time could be really, really lame.
Last night, I finally saw the 1993 Halloween movie (although it was released in July) Hocus Pocus for the first time. This movie did not get massive success following its release. A lot of critics panned the movie, such as the late Roger Ebert, who gave it one star.
According to Ebert (one of the most prolific film critics of our time),
"Hocus Pocus" is a film desperately in need of self-discipline.
It's one of those projects where you imagine everyone laughing and applauding each other after every scene, because they're so convinced they're wild and crazy guys. But watching the movie is like attending a party you weren't invited to, and where you don't know anybody, and they're all in on a joke but won't explain it to you.
Here are a few of my opinions on the film. If I were a professional film critic, I would give the film a 3/5 star rating. It's enjoyable, an eye-pleaser, but not as bewitching as it poses to be.
The Contrast To History
The Sanderson Sisters were tried and hanged for witchcraft in Salem in October 31st 1693, or perhaps the people only did so because the sisters abducted Emily and Thackery Binx and wouldn't tell the townsfolk where they were?
What is the problem with this, though? Before the beginning of 1693, the hysteria of being savage against those accused of witchcraft hushed down, because the colony governor's own wife was accused of witchcraft and he ordered the trials to stop. This could be a problem for the audience because it isn't factually correct, and we know that information (without confirmation) can spread like wildfire and we'd easily make a fool out of ourselves.
An Eight Year-Old is Smarter Than the Teenagers
As Ebert's review states,
... A story like this requires some kind of structure. Some sort of clean-cut goals to be won and fates to be avoided. Watching "Hocus Pocus," I had no doubt that the filmmakers had talked their way through the plot to their own satisfaction, without stopping to ask if it could be followed by an audience. This is the kind of movie where the characters keep reciting the rules and reminding each other of their supernatural realities, shrieking in alarm while we stare indifferently at the screen.
I thought the film was fairly enjoyable because of Dani. She's basically the savior of this film because she's cute, adorable, and bold. Yep, she probably thinks on her feet more than our hormonal teenagers Max and Allison.
Heck, they couldn't even follow an instruction from Binx not to open the book at all costs. Dani may be a child, but she's probably as witty as Binx the cat; and Binx jabbing at Max throughout the movie isn't surprising in the least. The teenagers were airheads.
And I think that's the problem here. I'm not quite sure who was the focus of the film. Was it the Sanderson sisters? Was it Max... or was it Dani all along?
I can see where most naysayers of the film are coming from when they rate this film very lowly. Throughout the movie, I waited for more badass background information about Salem and witchcraft in general. The movie introduces a build-up towards each sisters' backstory but it didn't happen. This is such a downer because the Witch trial stories (and all the Halloween stuff) is really interesting, along with the fact that it was the topic of the class. Allison and family owned the Sanderson house-turned-museum, and even Dani explained the entire ordeal about All Hallow's Eve to Max.
Another frustrating tidbit was when Winifred raised her former lover Billy Butcherson back from the grave. For all it's worth, would you honestly believe that a man you killed (after having sewn his mouth shut) would follow your orders? Nope. Not unless you charmed his undead body to do your bidding (like in AHS: Coven)...
She really hurt my feelings! She doesn't even know me.
The film had us waiting for more information about the Sanderson sisters & the history - but none came.
Many Halloween movies can be a great source of rollercoaster feels, but Hocus Pocus failed to enchant me in the least. A Goosebumps movie honestly did a better job. However, there are also a lot of good moments in the movie that made it quite redeemable.
The Film's Redeeming Moments
Dani and Allison talking
"In fact, he loves 'em!" It took me quite a while and a google search to realize what a "yabbo" was.
Before Max lit the Candle (and the succeeding events)
Before he lit the candle, he commented that the superstitions are all just a bunch of hocus pocus, do yah remember that? Yeah, No? Max asked Allison if she wanted to light the candle and she coyly replied no! The implication was probably because she wasn't a virgin. It's still such a dumb thing to do to light historical artifacts, though (for Max).
- The burning rain of death
Nice going, Max.
- I Put a Spell On You (Winifred ft. Mary and Sarah Sanderson)
They looked marvelous here, and this was one of my favorite parts of the movie.
All of Binx's scenes, especially this one:
All the jabs at Max (made by his sister, the fake cop, and especially Binx) for being a virgin. It was amusing, but apparently they used it too much.
The movie wasn't all that frustrating or confusing; it was just bland. A semi eye-pleasing comedy with little story to follow. If the sisters hadn't wasted their time following Max when children are already swarming to them, we could have gotten a better story than bemusing stuff from a hocus pocus.
Underneath this all, however, the main theme of the movie is sibling relationships: Winifred and her vexation at her sisters; she couldn't care less what happens to them. Thackery and Emily's close bond, however he was too late to save his sister and has dedicated his immortal life to ensure that no one would resurrect the Sanderson sisters so Salem would remain safe. Lastly, Max and Dani's - although the latter is considered the bane of Max's life at the moment, and even though he was such a wimp throughout the movie, he redeemed himself with the help of Binx to realize that he's willing to die at the hands of witches to protect his younger sister.
Here's to hoping that if there would ever be a sequel to Hocus Pocus they do it better this time. Something that will enchant the audiences (including the elusive critics) into immortalizing the Sanderson sisters no matter how thoroughly unpleasant they really are.