Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hocus Pocus (1993)

The ULTIMATE Halloween Treat!

In the 1600s, the Sanderson sisters bewitched people. The three aging women, lusty Sarah, portly Mary, and sinister leader Winifred, were particularly fond of performing a certain spell that would keep them alive and young forever, with repeat use of course. Unfortunately, that particular spell required a living child as the key ingredient! One fateful Halloween night, that unpleasant honor went to adorable little Emily Binx, sister of teenaged Thackery, who immediately ran to his sibling's aid when he heard she'd been lured by Sarah Sanderson to the witches' home in the woods. This was not a well thought out plan though, and the cost was not only the life of his sister Emily, but his own humanity as well. Emily's lifeforce was drained from her body by the three Sanderson witches, and big-brother Thackery Binx was transformed into an immortal black cat, cursed to live forever with the guilt of his failure to save his sister! Luckily for the rest of the children of Salem, the Sanderson sisters were captured that night and hung for their crimes, but not before their living book of spells revealed to them a curse to bring the three back from the dead on All Hallow's Eve when a virgin lights the black flame candle.

300 years later, teenager Max Dennison is a newcomer to Salem, struggling to adjust after growing up in a California lifestyle. It isn't going well for Max. Bullies are stealing his sneakers right off his feet, the girl of his dreams snubs him due to his lack of interest in Halloween, and his little sister, Dani, is ever the pest. Now, he must spend the evening escorting her door to door for trick or treating while their parents enjoy the town Halloween dance. Things are about to go from bad to worse for Max, however. Just when he believes things are looking up after he and Dani convince dream-girl Allison to take them to the old Sanderson house, Max's efforts to impress the girl lead him to light the black-flame candle himself, bringing Sarah, Mary, and Winifred Sanderson back from the dead! From there on out, it's a non-stop, fun-filled chase as the witches pursue the children, determined to make sassy-mouthed Dani the subject of their next youth spell, which must be performed before dawn or else the witches will be gone forever! With the immortal, talking black cat Binx guiding them along, Max, Dani, and Allison work together to outrun, outwit, and outlast the evil trio and their magical arsenal, with the fate of all the children of Salem hanging in the balance!

In "Hocus Pocus," director Kenny Ortega, who also gave us the equally underrated and enjoyable cult-classic "Newsies," brings us a perfect Halloween movie that's actually great fun any time of year! With a fantastic cast headed up by the legendary Bette Midler and "Eerie Indiana's" Omri Katz, awesome music (Hey, Disney, where's the soundtrack?!), a hilarious script that incorporates all the Halloween essentials, and brilliant special effects, "Hocus Pocus" easily ranks as one of my favorite films of all-time! Moments such as the bus ride, the encounter with the motorcycle cop, the visit to the Master's house, and, of course, the Sanderson sisters performing "I Put a Spell On You" at the town party just make this movie fun, fun, fun! The witches may be creepy at times and totally dangerous, but they have a Three Stooges vibe going throughout that keeps things from getting too scary. However, this film CAN be a bit much for younger kids. Yes, despite feeling generally like a typical Disney live-action flick from the `90s (a great time for Disney live-action), there are some surprising moments. The witches do off little Emily in the beginning of the film by stealing her "essence," they do use some mild swearing and the virgin joke is unnecessarily hammered into the ground, and, yeah, some folks might find certain aspects scary, but only the very young I'd wager. Basically, this film was targeted at `tweens and teens, and, had they gone to see it, it would probably have been a hit. Unfortunately, it wasn't till repeat airings on the Disney Channel that most people discovered this gem of a holiday film. As for me, I saw it in theaters and am so glad I did! I wish we'd get more Halloween films like this one! This is how I like to see witches on Halloween! Cackling, riding brooms across the sky, and hunting trick or treaters! That's the concept of Halloween witches that scared me as a kid, and that's what I'd like to see more of in Halloween films today! The DVD is sadly bare-bones. Totally disappointing for such a spectacular cult classic! Still, it is without a doubt a must own for annual viewings at the very least!

For more must watch Halloween viewing, check out "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," "Sleepy Hollow," "Ichabod and Mr. Toad," the original "The Worst Witch," "Garfield Holiday Celebrations," the Casper, Addams Family, and Harry Potter films, "Return to Oz," "Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile," "The Night Dracula Saved the World," "The Monster Squad," "Ernest Scared Stupid," "The Witches," "Mad Monster Party," "Spaced Invaders," "Love At First Bite," "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," and see my Halloween listmania lists for more! Also, for more great `90s Disney live-action films, check out the Mighty Ducks film series, "The Adventures of Huck Finn," "Dick Tracy," "Cool Runnings," "Newsies," "Tom and Huck," the "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" films, "101 Dalmatians," "Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book," "The Santa Clause," "Tom and Huck," "White Fang," "Heavyweights," "The Rocketeer," "Three Musketeers," "Iron Will," and more! But don't forget about classic Disney live-action either, or their great `80's stuff, like my number one favorite film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit!" With great new stuff like "Herbie: Fully Loaded," "Holes," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and the "Chronicles of Narnia," it seems that Disney live-action is still going strong! By Monty Moonlight

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