Hocus Pocus, Disney’s film about three witch sisters is one of our favorite family Halloween movies. With ingredients like black magic, a zombie boyfriend, and an immortal black cat, this movie casts a hilariously dark spell.
Now Hocus Pocus is back in theaters to celebrate its 25th anniversary! Looking at the movie with fresh eyes, it’s better now than it was when it originally rode a broom into theaters in 1993. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker star as three witches who return to Salem MA three centuries after their deaths, but their plot to extend their evil lives won’t be easy to pull off — and fortunately for us, their plot is wonderful to watch.
Here are four essential elements of Hocus Pocus.
Horror Bona Fides
Hocus Pocus is based on an idea by producer David Kirschner. It was first scripted by Mick Garris, who has adapted multiple Stephen King projects and was involved in efforts like Showtime’s classic Masters of Horror series. Garris’s original version was a lot more dark, with more of an emphasis on horror.
And yet the movie is still plenty scary, with a better horror angle than almost any other family film. The three Sanderson sisters want to steal the souls of children to preserve their own lives; you don’t get much more freaky than that. And they’re so gleeful about it! Despite being appropriate for nearly all ages, Hocus Pocus still has plenty of spooky spirit.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Speaking of the glee with which the witches go about their business, there’s Sarah Sanderson, the youngest sister, played by Sarah Jessica Parker. The film’s entire cast is great, but even with the whole history of Sex and the City behind her, this is one of the best roles Parker has ever played.
Sarah Sanderson is just so evil. She’s got the most violent and nasty ideas about how to punish and attack people. And yet she’s also like a child in many ways, which makes her black soul all the more odd. Actually, there’s a lot of similarity between Sarah Sanderson and Harley Quinn. Maybe that’s why we love her chaotic beauty so much.
We love cats, but Thackery Binx takes things to a higher level. That’s because old Thackery was a teen in 1693, who saw his sister stolen by the witches. He couldn’t save his sister, and in the end couldn’t entirely save himself. The sisters use a spell to turn Thackery into a black cat, cursing him to live forever with his guilt at having failed to save his sister.
But Thackery turns his curse into a duty, as he guards the witches cottage to prevent anyone from lighting the Black Flame Candle which can bring them back to life. He doesn’t quite manage that trick, but at least Thackery can talk, which helps in the fight against the revived witches. So, yeah, the talking immortal cursed black cat is one of the best parts of the movie, obviously.
Here’s a tip: don’t cheat on an evil witch. Maybe don’t date one in the first place, but if you’re going to go out with a witch, don’t cheat. Winifred Sanderson was in love with Billy Butcherson, but he dallied with the younger Sarah on the side. Winifred found out, poisoned him, and sewed his mouth shut. But that isn’t the end for our sad friend Billy. He’s cursed again by Winifred, as she raises him from the dead to chase off the kids who have her spell book. The only thing more sad than a murdered cheating boyfriend is a zombie murdered cheating boyfriend — but at least he’s eager to redeem himself.
One neat thing about Billy is that he’s played by Doug Jones, the willowy actor who is a favorite of director Guillermo del Toro. He played the fish man in The Shape of Water, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, and Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies, among many other roles. Jones had appeared on TV and in a couple films before this, but Hocus Pocus was his first major movie role.
Hocus Pocus plays AMC Theaters beginning October 26!