Hocus Pocus (1993)
It's just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!
It wouldn't be a proper trip down memory lane for most people if it didn't involve in some shape or form Disney. I can only conceive some Disney thinkers surrounding a cauldron, mixing in some typical formulas, some kid actors, some Halloween spirit, and someone just bumbles in the Three Stooges prompting them all to look on in shock and awe as their brew comes to life. Is it awesome, or is it awful? Did it withstand the test of time when years later that haunting nostalgia gets added to the witching brew? Saddle your broom and lets find out.
A boy awakens to find his younger sister missing. After seeing some smoke from the woods, the worst is expected and the boy goes to find his sister whilst he sends another young lad to go inform the town. Stumbling upon the cottage, he peeks in to see three witches surrounding his sister, and gives away his location on accident, running to hide as they check for him. After a short distraction, they decide they have more important things to do - particularly using the young girl as a source of youth for their life potion. The brother tries to save his sister, but after getting both hands of witch-lightning finds himself coming up short of the task. His reward for interference is a curse from the witches, turning him into an immortal black cat so he can live out eternity ridden with guilt. Of course, things don't work out quite as the witches plan when the rest of the village arrives, complete with torches, and the villagers have themselves a lynching - but not after the witches make a spell-bound promise to return one day.
Fast forward to the "present" where witches are just a thing of movies and scary tales. Halloween has arrived in the town, whose kept it's legend of the witch sisters alive through all this time - regardless of if people believe it or not. A young dude fresh from L.A. doesn't believe that mumbo jumbo of course, and it in turn doesn't seem to help out his suave attempts at earning the attention of an attractive classmate. On the way home, a couple of punks steal his shoes, and after his little sister surprises him in his room he's had the last straw. She reminds him that he needs to take her trick or treating later - and of course all riled up and angry he wants nothing to do with it, not that he has a choice. They run into the punks again whilst trick or treating, and his night gets even worse. Frustrated and angry he yells at his sister, who runs off, but they rather quickly mend and go to the next house.
In this house he finds the girl he's got a crush on, and after some banter he decides it would be a good idea to go up to the old witches house (which is now a closed down witch museum) to prove that it's all a bunch of nonsense. It takes some bribing of his little sister to make sure she'll go, but they all end up heading there. While there, he jokes around about lighting a black flame candle - which supposedly, when lit by a virgin, will return the witch sisters to life so they can once again reign terror. After getting attacked by a black cat, he ends up lighting the candle anyways and - surprise - the witches return. They manage to escape thanks to some quick thinking and trickery, and the cat tells him he needs to steal the book before he gets out the door, after which the trio and cat take off into the cemetery to try and escape the witches. Now the witches are on a hunt for their spell book and the kids, and all kids, as they try and adjust to the modern times and complete their goal of getting ever-lasting youthful life.
The plot probably isn't the first thing people will remember about this movie - I mean, it's nothing really exceptional. Heck, it's pretty standard fare as far as family Halloween movies go - kids don't believe in things, kids summon things, kids have to deal with what they summoned. The witches being so Three Stooges does certainly help set them apart from other forays into witching, but the kids (and their actions) are pretty much straight what you'd expect. There's a few false ends here and there, and even a few song and dance numbers (wouldn't be much of Disney Classic without them would it?), but there's also a bunch of items that feel largely unnecessary - such as the zombie. Of course, this is largely a "feel good" sort of movie, and nothing is needed to drive that home more than the less than 5 minutes of manufactured rift between the two siblings before it's mended and things carry on.
Acting here isn't stellar for the most part. When it comes to the witches, it makes sense that they are over-the-top cartoony witch versions of Larry, Curly, and Moe. The slapstick isn't quite as evident with them as it is in the three stooges, but the manners in which they interact with each other is pretty similar - one might be the leader, but all three are rather dimwitted and goofy. The kids play it slightly less hammy, although certainly there's some scenes with them being just as ridiculous as the witches, but the acting (particularly from the youngest) doesn't always come off as being particularly great. Again, the scene of the two siblings mending earlier on is a good example of things not being entirely convincing. Overall though, it's important to remember that I believe some of this ham, this non-oscar acting is in fact intentional, as the entire movie is presented in largely joking manners.
Effects work ranges the horizon here, with some things - such as makeup and costumes - being well done, some - like flying the brooms or lightning - coming off pretty decent, and others - like the talking cat - being less than impressive a lot of the time. When it comes to the cat, Sabrina the Teenage Witch this is not, and that should say something to people who've seen that. There are a few stick out song numbers - the "Put a spell on you" rendition being the largest, but also the relaxing yet somewhat haunting song used to cast a spell on children and draw them in to the witches. There is a lot of jokes here, although (as is often the case when rewatching movies from the 80's and 90's) a decent amount of it isn't necessarily something a kid will (or should) get - such as the constant virgin thing, a few of the "attraction" bits, or the 'pretend cop' picking up a date that looks an awful lot like a hooker.
Despite some issues with the DvD copy I watched not interfacing well with my drive (causing an odd skip every time the movie changed between "Scenes" or "Chapters"), it was still an enjoyable watch. It's plot isn't exactly something to write home about - although I'm not really sure even a younger me would have said it was - but it's amusing enough through most of the bumbling witches interactions that even though it seems much more idiotic than you may remember it, you still get a little smile here and there. Granted, there's certainly a few jokes or references an adult might get that went over the head of them when they were a younger folk watching it, but overall I feel it a largely unchanged experience. A decent flick to watch if you aren't sure whether you'd like to be laughing or let Halloween just run amok, amok, amok.