The Rock at Boston College is celebrating the spookiest day of the year in a big way by generating new content every day in our first-ever “HalloWeek”. The Rock is proud to present this installment in our holiday special.
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a quick second, and come to an agreement: no one does Halloween better ABC Family, Nickelodeon, and the Disney Channel. While the vast majority of us were in our formative pre-teen years, we anticipated the annual Halloween episodes of Lizzie McGuire and SpongeBob SquarePants, marathons of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her talking black cat (very trendy in the Halloween realm), and the endless DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies) with some sort of spooky storyline.
While the month of October brought forth blasts from the past like any one of the Halloweentown movies or some Buffy the Vampire Slayer re-runs, nothing could excite me more than the airing of Hocus Pocus every year.
The golden age of these beloved Halloween-themed episodes came in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but Hocus Pocus was a trailblazer. It was released in 1993, but flopped at the box office. Even though it was produced by Disney, Hocus Pocus appealed more to junior high kids that wouldn’t be caught dead at a Disney movie where their moms dropped them off, which explains the high VHS sales and cult following the movie attained afterwards.
This movie is pretty underrated as far as Halloween movies go, but fear not, I will make you a believer that Hocus Pocus is one of, if not the best “spooky” movie of all time. The film stars Kathy Najimy, pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker (whose character is incredibly ditzy and entertaining), and the legendary Bette Midler. The three women play the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches from seventeenth-century Salem, Mass. awoken from a 300-year slumber by a group of kids–Max, his kid sister Dani, and his secret crush Allison–who follow around a talking black cat (Binx, the OG talking black cat) all night.
So yeah, freaking Bette Midler and her two sisters are resurrected from the dead for one night on Halloween when a virgin (Max, who is outed as a virgin in front of Allison. Yes, Disney makes a sexual reference!), lights the black flame. The three witches run amok trying to chase down these kids and their cat, who is 300-something years old, to get this ancient spell book (with a creepy eye!) back before sunrise so they can live forever.
The witches acclimate themselves to the modern day Halloween, which is fairly hilarious to watch, as they become acquainted with children in costumes (Bette Midler screaming), police cars (Bette Midler screaming), and even asphalt, which they believe is a frozen black river (Bette Midler rejoicing). Also, Kathy Najimy’s character uses a vacuum cleaner to fly instead of the typical broom, which is pretty darn clever.
As the night wears on, the sisters wreak havoc in Salem, especially with the men, flirting with a bus driver and a man dressed in a devil costume (believing him to be the actual Satan), and encountering a zombie, who turns out to be Bette Midler’s former flame until he cheated on her with SJP. While none of them are particularly attractive, they somehow end up bewitching and enchanting the men of Salem.
Their best work is at the town Halloween party where they cast a spell on basically every parent (what are the odds?) via musical number, because there would be no point in casting Bette Midler without some sort of song:
Eventually, all the funny parts must end, and the serious part of the movie must come. On the bright side (spoiler alert!), Max saves his younger sister Dani and all the children of Salem from the witches with the help of Allison and Binx (the aforementioned super-old talking cat).
As preteens and early adolescents, many of us learned that these witches were really bad-ass even though they were pretty evil. We also learned that saving your little sister from the clutches of some witches on vacuum cleaners will help you win the girl of your dreams over in just one night. It just wouldn’t be a Disney movie without some unrealistic love expectations.
For me, this movie brings back way more memories than any of the Halloweentown movies. While Debbie Reynolds steals the show in that franchise, Hocus Pocus is just a vintage family Halloween movie with humor and material that wasn’t too watered-down for the Disney Channel audiences. Plain and simple, Hocus Pocus set the precedent for what Halloween movies and TV episodes should be.