Hocus Pocus (1993 film)
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Kenny Ortega|
|Produced by||Steven Haft
|Screenplay by||Mick Garris
David M. Evans
|Story by||David Kirschner
Sarah Jessica Parker
|Music by||John Debney (Score)
James Horner (Song)
|Editing by||Peter E. Berger|
|Studio||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Running time||96 minutes|
Hocus Pocus is a 1993 American family fantasy horror comedy film directed by Kenny Ortega. It stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as a family of witches, known as the Sanderson Sisters, who are inadvertently resurrected by a teenager named Max (Omri Katz) along with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and girlfriend Allison (Vinessa Shaw). Despite receiving negative reviews from critics during its theatrical release, the film gained a cult following on home video.
In 1693, Thackery Binx, a teenage farmer living in Salem, Massachusetts, discovers his little sister Emily has been spirited away by the three Sanderson sisters, Winifred, Mary and Sarah, who intend to regain their youth by absorbing the life force of children through their witchcraft. Sneaking in the witches’ cottage, Binx’s attempt to save Emily fails when the sisters transform him into an immortal black cat and absorb Emily’s life force, regaining their youth. An angry mob led by Binx’s parents capture the sisters and prepare to hang them, but Winifred’s spell book casts a spell which will resurrect the sisters on All Hallows' Eve when a virgin lights their black-flamed candle. After the sisters die, Binx guards their cottage for the next three hundred years to prevent their return.
On October 31, 1993, teenager Max Dennison struggles to come to terms with moving from Los Angeles to Salem, although he quickly develops a crush on fellow student Allison. After his new shoes are stolen by bullies Jay and Ernie (“Ice”), Max is further frustrated when he has to take his mischievous little sister Dani trick-or-treating where he is humiliated further by Jay and Ernie. Max and Dani meet Allison at her house, and when Dani strikes up interest in the Sandersons, the trio venture to their old cottage turned into a museum since shut down. Max lights the candle, resurrecting the witches, who try to take Dani prisoner only for Max to fool them by igniting the building’s sprinkler system. Binx appears, instructing Max to steal Winifred’s spellbook. Realizing they have been had, the Sandersons give chase.
Confronting the children and Binx in a graveyard, the witches cannot land their brooms due to hallowed ground so Winifred summons Billy Butcherson from the dead, her former lover whom she poisoned after learning he had an affair with Sarah. Billy unenthusiastically follows Winifred’s orders and pursues the children and Binx across town with the witches not far behind whilst they explore the modern world, during which their brooms are taken by trick-or-treaters. The children venture to the town hall Halloween party which Max’s parents Dave and Jenny are attending. The Sandersons crash the party but perform "I Put a Spell on You" and enchant the adults to dance until they die. The children lure the witches to the high school where they trap them in a kiln and incinerate them.
However, the witches are revived and return home in despair, realising they were only revived for Halloween night and unless they kill more children they will turn to dust by the sunrise. The witches also take Jay and Ernie prisoner when they insult them. At the Dennison house, Max and Allison read the spellbook to find a possible spell to reverse Binx’s curse, only for an unseen light to fire from the book and alert the Sandersons to its location. The witches capture Dani, Binx and the spellbook and fly back to their cottage, Sarah using a siren-like song to hypnotise the children of Salem into approaching the house. Using the Dennisons' truck, Max and Allison rescue Dani and Binx and flee to the graveyard. Despite having enough potion for one child and Jay or Ernie to use it on, Winifred makes it personal. Billy appears but turns on Winifred to aid the children and Binx, defending Dani around Billy’s grave and using salt as a weapon against the witches. Winifred captures Dani, with Binx trying to save her but is he thrown to the ground.
Max gets Winifred’s potion and demands Dani back, while Billy holds Allison back. With few options, Max drinks it, leaving Winifred no choice. She grabs him but Max fights back, knocking them to the ground. The sun begins to rise, Winifred panicking and attempts to absorb Max’s life force but realises she has stepped on hallowed ground and turns to stone, before the light of the morning sun destroys the witches once and for all. Billy returns to his grave and falls asleep, but Binx finally dies thanks to the broken curse. His ghost approaches Max, Allison and Dani and thanks them before Emily’s ghost appears and brother and sister reunite and walk off into the afterlife together. Later, adults are freed from their own dancing curse, and Jay and Ernie remain trapped in the sisters' cottage (singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat) while the spellbook looks about for its mistresses.
- The Sanderson Sisters
- Bette Midler as Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson, the buck-toothed leader of the Sanderson sisters. She is the eldest and is highly sensitive to people calling her "ugly". She's also the meanest and wickedest of the three. She's generally the most powerful and most intelligent of the three sisters. She has a great knowledge of dark rituals, curses, and spells. Her robes are green and she rides a corn broom when her broom is stolen.
- Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, the middle witch sister. Often complimenting and comforting Winnie, she likes to eat children. Her powers are smelling children & keeping track of them. She tends to act like a dog. She is the most observant of the three. Her robe colour is red and she rides a vacuum cleaner when her broom is stolen.
- Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, the youngest witch sister she also is the dumb blonde archetype. Her powers are hypnosis (by singing a siren song), luring children to feed upon their life force. She also likes to play torturous games with people. Her somewhat revealing robes are purple and she rides a mop when her broom is stolen.
- Main Cast
- Omri Katz as Max Dennison, a teenager upset at having to move to the small town of Salem from Los Angeles. He is initially cynical towards Halloween, but is persuaded by his sister, Dani, to go out. He has a crush on local girl Allison from his class and strives to impress her. He inadvertently releases the Sanderson sisters from beyond the grave by lighting a black enchanted candle resurrecting them. Although he bickers with Dani, they still clearly love each other, as he willingly drank the potion Winnie planned on feeding her, thereby sacrificing himself for his sister. His character is shamed throughout the movie for being the key in resurrecting the three ancient witches.
- Thora Birch as Dani Dennison, Max's 8-year-old sister. She is around the same age as Emily was, which is the reason why Binx bonds closely with her. She is somewhat volatile, such as screaming when Max refuses to take her trick-or-treating, but she is very brave and is very upset when Binx dies, although cheers up when his ghost comforts her. She argues with Max, but they evidently care about each other.
- Vinessa Shaw as Allison, Max's love interest and native Salem resident. Her family owns pieces of the town's history giving her an in-depth knowledge of the Sanderson Sisters and their past.
- Sean Murray as Thackery Binx (body double in human form) (Jason Marsden as his voice in both human and cat forms), a teenager from 1693 who has a little sister, Emily, whom he follows into the woods and fails to prevent her death at the hands of the Sanderson sisters sucking her life force from her. He is since then cursed as an immortal cat, feeling uncontrollable guilt over her death. He guides Max, Dani and Allison in fighting back against the sisters. He is particularly close to Dani, due to her reminding him of Emily, and warns Max, "Take good care of Dani, Max. You'll never know how precious she is until you lose her."
- Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson, once Winifred Sanderson's lover (now a zombie), Billy was caught "sporting with" Sarah and was punished by Winnie. Having been poisoned, in death Winnie sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle. Upon cutting the stitches he insults Winifred, saying to Max that he has waited centuries to tell her what he really thinks of her. He then joins side with the kids to defeat the Sanderson sisters.
- Charles Rocket as Dave Dennison, Max and Dani's father.
- Stephanie Faracy as Jenny Dennison, Max and Dani's mother.
- Other Cast
- Jodie Rivera as Emily Binx, Thackery's sister who was lured in by Sarah Sanderson and had her life force sucked out by the sisters while Thackery watched.
- Larry Bagby as Ernie / "Ice", the leader of a group of high school bullies.
- Tobias Jelinek as Jay, another bully and Ernie's sidekick.
- Rodrigo Castaneda as Elijah, a boy from a farm in 1693.
- Norbert Weisser as Mr. Binx, the father of Emily and Thackery.
- Kathleen Freeman as Miss Olin, Max's and Allison's teacher.
- Garry Marshall as "The Devil", a man wearing a devil costume who the Sanderson sisters assume to be their "Master" (referring to Satan). Flattered by this, he wholeheartedly welcomes them into his home.
- Penny Marshall (Garry's sister), plays the "Devil's" wife. They assume she's Medusa because of her curlers, which look like snakes.
Hocus Pocus started life as a script for a special original movie for the Disney Channel, to be produced by one of the smaller studios owned by The Walt Disney Company. The script, however, caught the eye of Walt Disney Studios, who decided that the film was strong enough to carry well-known names and to attract a cinema audience. The film has (as pointed out by most critics) a strange virgin concept strung along. The idea to cast Bette Midler was partly inspired by Midler's Golden Globe-nominated performance in a milestone motion picture for The Walt Disney Company on its Touchstone Pictures line, Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Midler, who plays the central antagonist of the film, is quoted as saying that "Hocus Pocus was the most fun I'd had in my career up to that point."
The movie is set in Salem, Massachusetts, but most of it was filmed on sound stages in Los Angeles studios. However, most exteriors were filmed in Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts during two weeks of filming with principal cast.
Hocus Pocus was released in the United States and Canada on July 16, 1993, opening in fourth place with $8.1 million. Following a sophomore gross of $5.2 million, the film fell out of the top ten, ending its domestic box office run with $39.5 million. The film was released to foreign markets in October 1994.
Home video and television
The film was released to VHS in North America on September 9, 1994. and later to DVD on June 4, 2002. Following the film's release on the latter format, it has continued to show strong annual sales, raking in more than $1 million in DVD sales each October. In the mid to late 1990s, the film was rebroadcast annually on ABC before switching over to ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween lineup in the early 2000s. The film has continuously brought record viewing numbers to the lineup, including a 2009 broadcast watched by 2.5 million viewers. In 2011, an October 29 airing became the lineup's most watched program, with 2.8 million viewers. As of September 2010, it is the most played film on the television station RTÉ in Ireland.
Upon its U.S. release, Hocus Pocus received rather mixed to negative reviews from film critics. The Miami Herald called it "a pretty lackluster affair", adding this comment: "Despite the triple-threat actress combo, Hocus Pocus won't be the Sister Act of 1993. There are a lot of gotta-sees this summer, and this isn't one of them." The New York Times' Janet Maslin wrote that the film "has flashes of visual stylishness but virtually no grip on its story". Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, calling it "acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they're Bette Midler fans. In which case it's depressing as hell"; and stating that while Najimy and Parker "have their moments of ramshackle comic inspiration, and the passable special effects should keep younger campers transfixed [...] the sight of the Divine Miss M. mugging her way through a cheesy supernatural kiddie comedy is, to say the least, dispiriting." On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Hocus Pocus has a "Rotten" score of 30%, based on twenty-three reviews; however, the audience score is 67%, with an average rating of 3.1 stars out of 5.
Over the years, through various outlets such as strong DVD sales and annual record-breaking showings on 13 Nights of Halloween, the film has achieved cult status. Various media outlets from International Business Times, to Celebuzz, and Oh No They Didn't have reiterated such claims. In October 2011, the Houston Symphony celebrated various horror and Halloween classics, including Hocus Pocus, with "The Hocus Pocus Pops". Former movie reviewer Harrison Laine critiqued this film as a Halloween special, giving it a negative review.
Awards and nominations
|1994||Saturn Awards||Best Actress — Bette Midler||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress — Kathy Najimy||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress — Sarah Jessica Parker||Nominated|
|Best Fantasy Film||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Nominated|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy — Thora Birch||Won|
|Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy — Vinessa Shaw||Nominated|
|Best Youth Actor Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy — Omri Katz||Nominated|
|Best Youth Actor Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy — Sean Murray||Nominated|
|Best Youth Actor in a Voice Over Role - TV or Movie — Jason Marsden||Nominated|
- "Box office information for Hocus Pocus". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 16, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- "The Top Movies, Weekend of July 23, 1993". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- Amazon - Hocus Pocus (1993)
- "Hocus Pocus - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- "ABC Family's 11th annual "13 Nights of Halloween 2009" Scares Up Event-Best Deliveries". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- "ABC Family’s "13 Nights of Halloween 2011" Scares Up Record Crowd". TV By the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- "Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
- "Hocus Pocus starts strong, goes flat" (Registration required to read article). The Miami Herald (The McClatchy Company). 1993-07-16. p. 7G. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- Maslin, Janet (1993-07-16). "Review/Film; Bette Midler, Queen Witch in Heavy Makeup". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- Burr, Ty (1993-07-23). "Hocus Pocus Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
- Rotten Tomatoes: Hocus Pocus)
- "Five Reasons Why 'Hocus Pocus' is One of the Greatest Cult Classic Films". International Business Times. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- "HOCUS POCUS - Where are they now?". Oh No They Didn't. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- "Pavilion celebrates Halloween with Hocus Pocus Pops". Your Houston News. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
- Hocus Pocus at the Internet Movie Database
- Hocus Pocus at AllRovi
- Hocus Pocus at Box Office Mojo
- Hocus Pocus at Rotten Tomatoes
- Hocus Pocus at Metacritic