Hocus Pocus: My Halloween Tradition
By Joey Keogh
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Dir: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker,Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz
When it comes to Halloween, or indeed any time of year, really – like when I’m sick, healthy, happy, depressed or just bored – there’s one film that is guaranteed to put a smile on my face, and it has done since I was a weird little kid.
I can’t recall when I first watched ‘Hocus Pocus’ but its effect hasn’t worn off since. It is, quite literally, my go-to film, regardless of the occasion, and I will watch it each and every time it is shown on Film4 (which is, luckily, A LOT).
At the same time, it is undoubtedly my first choice for Halloween, because, for me, it is the most Halloween-y of all the Halloween films, including ‘Halloween’, which has far less trick-or-treating, and not nearly enough candy.
There are certain, “classic” horror movies, that are considered appropriate for the spookiest holiday – ‘Halloween’, of course, ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’, ‘Scream’, ‘The Bridges Of Madison County’ (if you don’t get that joke, I hate you) – but nothing compares to the magic of ‘Hocus Pocus’.
Especially at Halloween, it creates this warmth, this fuzziness, in my tummy that makes me feel completely at home, like the characters being represented onscreen are my people (I used to feel the same way about the chicks in ‘The Craft’, but for very different, very Goth-related reasons).
Perhaps it’s because it’s a nineties movie, and the bullies dress just like me, in plaid, leather and Docs, or maybe it’s down to the fact that it boasts the most hilariously wonderful villains imaginable, for whom it is impossible not to root.
It could be because it pitches, as dreamboat Max notes, “three ancient hags against the twentieth century”, which allows for numerous, truly genius lines, developed from misunderstandings, like how firemen are witch hunters, because they dress in black robes, and “carry axes to chop the wood to burn us”.
Though it’s quite a dark premise for a kids’ film, there is no end to the hilarity created by bringing the witches back from the dead, and even when it doesn’t really make sense (check the many goofs on IMDb), it’s too much fun to over-think.
‘Hocus Pocus’ is the perfect Halloween movie. Not only is it set on the holiday itself, but it incorporates everything that’s great about it, from trick-or-treating, to dressing up, eating sweets, and hanging out in cemeteries (all things that are also super fun about being Goth).
Not to mention, the wisecracking black cat, with an over-the-top English accent, three witches who perform dance routines at the drop of a pointy hat, and all of the other spooky shit that we, as children, hoped would happen to us some day, and that we fantasise about even more as grown ups, because it really is just that cool.
Even now, at 25 years of age, I still find the film ridiculously funny, exciting, and even quite tense in parts. There are elements to it are that are definitely influenced by genre flicks, such as, in particular, the zombie with his mouth sewn shut, or even the spell book, with a rolling eye in its cover, which is bound in human skin.
As a child, I was obsessed with being scared, and with all things spooky and weird, but until I was allowed to watch actual horror films, ‘Hocus Pocus’ sated my appetite for the macabre, and looking back, it seems like a much braver film than what is aimed towards children nowadays.
So many of the jokes went over my head until I was about 20, which means I’ve got to enjoy the film on so many other levels, and I’ve grown up with it, in a lot of ways too, because no matter what the situation, I always turn to ‘Hocus Pocus’ for comfort.
It may not be as scary as ‘Halloween’, or ‘The Bridges Of Madison County’, but ‘Hocus Pocus’ will always be my pick for Halloween, or indeed any time of year. Incredibly charming, magical and fun, even though it’s most definitely a nineties film, in the best possible way, it’s still completely timeless and nothing puts me in a spooky mood like it.
If you haven’t seen it, because you had no childhood to speak of, then hunt it down NOW and let it put a spell on you, too (sorry, couldn’t resist).