Hocus Pocus Once Again: A review of a Halloween classic and its sequel

Camille Pfister
Arts and Entertainment Editor

Spoilers for Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2 ahead. Cover image courtesy of Disney+.

The 2022 sequel to the 1993 classic Hocus Pocus provides a feeling of beautiful nostalgia which I believe a lot of us are craving right now. The original Hocus Pocus stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, as the hilarious Sanderson sisters, (Winnie, Sarah, and Mary, respectively)- three witches who were hung in Salem, Massachusetts in the 17th century after killing a young girl in order to remain young and beautiful. Before their death, they cast a curse that stated that with the lighting of the Black Flame Candle by a virgin, they would return for one night. Fast forward to 1993, and lo and behold a teenage boy lights the candle to impress a girl- and Boom! Sanderson Sisters return in style! 

The film is full of classic 90’s style and, excluding the astonishing lack of people of color (POC) characters, the film has aged remarkably well. The movie is lighthearted and despite the Sanderson Sisters being the villains of the story, they are so likable and amusing; you can’t help but root a little bit for them. Watching Parker ask Midler to hit her because it always makes her feel better, will never not be hilarious to me. Binx, the protective older brother from the 17th century turned cat, is a lovely inclusion of comic relief as he is faced with two idiot teenagers and an eight year old girl. The sibling relationship between main character Max and his little sister, Dani, is hilarious and extremely relatable. The movie ends as the Sanderson sisters explode into dust, defeated once again, never to return. Or so they would like us to think… 

In 2022, we got a long awaited sequel to the film, just in time for the spooky season. In this revival of the Sanderson Sisters, Midler, Parker, and Najimy all return to their characters, and we meet two new teenagers- Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo)- best friends who are obsessed with witches and crystals, and always do a ritual for Becca’s birthday (which happens to be Halloween). After Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of their favorite magic shop, gives them a special candle for the ritual, they unwittingly release the Sanderson Sisters once again. After discovering Gilbert tricked them, and released the Sanderson Sisters on purpose, the girls escape a prison the Sanderson Sisters put them in, and try to protect the town and the mayor from the wrath of the Sanderson Sisters. Gilbert, on the other hand, is cursed by the Sisters, and forced to assist them in their dangerous spell or lose his life. (Hint, dear reader: If you ever have the desire to release three evil witches… DON’T). 

The time change from the 1990’s to the 2020’s, is expressed through subtle, but both hilarious and important moments. The effects are definitely an improvement from the early ‘90’s. Watching Becca pull out a crystal for good luck is a cute reminder of the obsession with Zodiacs and crystals of the modern era. Having them all have cell phones, yet still have a reason why they don’t solve all their problems (like a curse works over the phone) is a subtle dig at old cheesy horror movies that all would have been solved by using a phone. In the important side of a new generation, we have a largely POC main cast, as both Becca and Gilbert are played by black actors, and Izzy is played by a Latina actress. In the film, we also see a Sanderson Sisters drag competition, which is a nice inclusion of modern queer culture in a classic Halloween movie. 

The second film builds on the Sanderson Sisters past and how they became who they are. The movie begins on Winnie’s 16th birthday, when she has been told by the Reverend that she must marry a man (chosen by the Reverend) immediately. When she refuses, the Reverend tries to take Mary and Sarah away, and Winnie’s screams are heartbreaking as the thing she values the most is threatened. They manage to escape, and Winnie discovers she’s a witch and meets an older witch who gives her the magic spell Book (an important character in both films). Winnie’s magic is born from her desire to protect her family and only grows from there. 

In comparison, the two movies work remarkably well together. The original movie is hysterical and made me laugh the entire time, and the sequel is just as funny. The sequel makes call backs to the original movie, and they land perfectly. Switch out an old vacuum, for two electric self vacuums, and a mop for a Swiffer. Watch them discover the contraption of a bus, and then watch them discover the magic of Walgreens. In the original movie, we get the magical performance of “I Put A Spell On You” and in the sequel, we get two stellar performances, “The Witches Are Back” at the beginning of the film, and “One Way Or Another” as they bewitch the townsfolk. 

In my opinion, the ending of the sequel is the best moment in the movie. Throughout the film, the Sisters are trying to perform the Power Spell (a spell Winnie promised the older witch she would never do) and when they finally achieve, the magic comes with a tragic price- Winnie loses her sisters. As Winnie watches them disappear, begging them to stay, and then begging Book and Becca to help her, your heart breaks for her. All she wanted was to stay with them forever, and she messed it up. As Winnie weeps and says, “Oh what is this feeling? I think it is my heart. I fear it is breaking.” Book agrees to help, and allows Becca to cast a new spell- one that Winnie believes will bring her sisters back. However, the spell doesn’t bring the sisters back, it brings Winnie to them, effectively ending her life. Despite the fact that this is the end of her reign on Earth, Winnie isn’t sad. She laughs as Becca tells her the truth, and exclaims, “Oh how marvelous.” It is a reminder that all Winnie truly cared about was her sisters, the last of her family. She was nothing without them, and she didn’t care where she went, as long as they were together. Winnie’s last line is her often repeated exclamation, “Sisters!” and she laughs as the viewers can see the sparkle of the sisters envelope Winnie in a hug. This ending seems to conclude the tale of the Sanderson Sisters once and for all, but who knows? They came back once before, who’s to say they can’t do it again…

The conclusion of both movies is the reunification of family. In the original film, Binx’s soul is returned and he becomes Thackery once again, and reunites with his beloved sister Emily. And in the sequel, the Sanderson Sisters are reunited forever. Both films are hilarious, beautiful, and heartwarming, and should definitely be on your Halloween watchlist.