As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
While it’s very true that Halloween is full of movies that aren’t exactly what you’d call “child friendly”, there are certain ones that are made especially for family viewing. Hocus Pocus is my absolute favorite when it comes to family friendly Halloween films. It’s now become a bonafide Halloween classic, and has gained quite the cult following over the years. It’s like a lot of other cult classics in that it wasn’t originally successful. It’s box office returns weren’t very good and it was panned by most critics, including the (in)famous Roger Ebert. In a way, I guess I can understand why some people may not get or enjoy this film, but I think it has more than enough enjoyable material in it to please audiences. I find the people who don’t really enjoy this just aren’t fans of this type of film. So, if this looks like your style, you’ll most likely find a lot to like.
The story revolves around The Sanderson Sisters, who are three witches that were hanged hundreds of years ago. These witches can only be resurrected if a virgin lights the “black flame candle” in their home. And wouldn’t ya know it…. two teenagers and a pre teen girl decide to go exploring one night and one of them lights this magical candle. Now that the sisters are back to life, they must suck the life out of all the children in Salem or else by sunrise they’ll be dust.You can do a lot with a plot like this, especially with the immense amount of talent that’s involved here. First of all, I have to talk about the casting. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are all incredibly well cast here; they each embody their roles so deliciously. They don’t only do well individually, they have great chemistry as a group too, which is very much needed. Since they do so well collectively, they are given really fun scenes to showcase that infectious energy. One is where they perform this “song”, which is really a spell they’re casting on the entire audience, and it’s all very entertaining, especially with Midler’s fantastic voice. The writing also provides them with humorous exchanges, and the comedy works for the most part.
We know the three witches work, so what about the kids? I’m happy to report that the three actors that play the kids do a very good job, and also work well as a group. I’m so glad the casting was so spot on with this film, because it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if it wasn’t. I love the actor that plays Max (Omri Katz). He showed some good potential and handled the character well. And the actress that played Dani (Thora Birch) also impressed me a great deal, especially for how young she was at the time. Birch continued to showcase her acting abilities years later in 1999’s American Beauty, but her performance here impressed me because of her ability to have such charm at such a young age. And Vinessa Shaw is also good as Allison, the girl who Max is trying to impress.I think the main reasons this film works so well is due to the cast and the extremely fun writing. The writing provides a lot of great humor and some touching moments as well (which is why it works so well in a family setting). And then you have this talented cast to bring that writing to life. It all combines to create an irresistibly fun result. Hocus Pocus gets a thumbs up from me, and I especially recommend it if you’re looking for a good family Halloween film.