Starring: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy
Writers: Mick Garris, David Kirschner, Neil Cuthbert
Director: Kenny Ortega
In the late 1600's, three witches are taking the life force from children to use for themselves. The last child they nab gets them caught; after they curse her older brother into a cat that will live forever, the parents show up with other locals to repay the favor by hanging their asses. However, before they perish, lead witch Winifred casts a spell that ensures their resurrection under a fool moon at the hands of a virgin.
300 years later on Halloween.
Max and his family are new to Salem, and he has little belief in the true meaning of Halloween or just anything supernatural. Halloween night, he takes his younger sister out trick or treating and ends up at the house of a girl that caught his eye at school. In an attempt to impress, he urges her to go on a trip the the Sanderson house and make a believer out of him. While there, Max lights a black flamed candle that's said to raise the spirits of the dead on Halloween if lit by a virgin. DERP DERP DERP.
I appreciate that this film has garnered somewhat of a cult following over the years and that they play the shit out of it around Halloween. It didn't fare too well at the box office; it made back more than its cost, but not enough to consider it a blockbuster by any stretch. It was also largely --but not completely-- ill received by critics. I must admit that it's not a favorite of mine and that it's pretty damn miraculous that I like it at all. There's 3 things working against it from my point of view. Those 3 things are Mick Garris, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker. Garris serves as a co-writer on the film, so that's why it's forgivable there. As far as his directing goes, I've only really liked Critters II --which he also wrote-- and Sleepwalkers --I should probably have my head checked for enjoying the latter. Midler? Eh, she's okay in Ruthless People and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, but you sure as shit won't ever catch me humming or singing any of her ditties. Parker... never liked the girl. She annoys the hell out of me. And I'm not one of those “I'm a DUDE! Fuck Sex and the City!” kinda guys. However, I do enjoy Hocus Pocus. I'm just trying to convey my bewilderment at the fact that I do. Anyway, I'm filling the gaps and ranting along here because this is gonna be a short review.
There's actually some pretty funny shit going on in this movie. Particularly, how the three witches have a hard time processing how much Salem has changed since their 300 year absence. They're running around thinking Trick or Treaters are ghouls, firemen are witch hunters and a guy dressed as a devil (played by Gary Mashall. His wife is played by his real life sister, Penny. Weird) passing out candy is their master. I honestly laughed out loud at some of this shit.
Now, the bullies Jay and Ice --played by Tobias Jelinek and Larry Bagby, respectively-- that steal Max's shoes in the cemetery... there is no way in hell I would let some dude nicknamed 'Ice' steal my fuckin' shoes, ESPECIALLY a dude that shaves the word “Ice” in the back of his head. In my high school years there would've been a brawl over some shit like that; hell, even if I was in middle school! No way. I wasn't too crazy about Max anyway, due to his disliking of superstition and all, but that wimpy shit knocked his respect level way the hell down.
Anyhow, on to acting!
As I just mentioned, wasn't really big on Max, but Omri Katz was fine as the part of said wimpy kid. I do like the fact that the character seemed to be into psychedelic music and Katz himself apparently had some drum skills. Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes remake) plays his love interest, Allison, and she was alright. Not under-performing or standing out, just good enough. Thora Birch was a better actress in 1993 than she is now, for sure, and that's kind of a shame. I think the only two movies I liked her in post Hocus Pocus was American Beauty and Ghost World. But she's great here as the bratty little sister with a curiosity about witchery.
Okay, Midler is pretty damn funny as the head witch, Winnie Sanderson. I was all for her in the role. But damn, was a musical scene really necessary? Worst part of the film, as far as my opinion goes. As I previously mentioned my disdain for Sarah Jessica Parker's acting and not finding her attractive, I gotta say she's not bad at all here, and if she was an evil being brought back from the dead for real, I may just be in love with her. She plays the promiscuous one of the three and pulls it off well. She actually has a little musical segment, too, but at least she's hunched over on a flying mop with her boobs nearly bursting out. Gah, I am bad. Kathy Najimy is the best of the three, though. She plays Mary, a witch with the power of sniffing out the presence of children. Damn funny and in most scenes with Parker and Midler she really stands out.
Visual FX are pretty awesome in the movie, actually one of the most enjoyable aspects. Makeup on the Sanderson sisters are great, going from a haggard and nasty look in the beginning to a bit younger. The FX for Thackery in cat form are damn good. I also really liked the sequence in the Sanderson house after Max lights the black flame candle. The aerial broomstick scenes are awesome, but I figured evil witches would be zipping the fuck around at full speed, instead of broomstickin' Miss Daisy. It's fairly intense for a PG Disney film, too. There's a cool looking eyeball spellbook, zombie fingers being broke off by a sewer lid, a zombie head being knocked off twice, and Thatchery gets ran over and re-inflates his body, as he's unable to die.
2) Mom Madonna or Momdonna, whichever you prefer.
3) Hellraiser skateboard!
4) Michael Myers!
All in all, I find this flick more entertaining than expected, and it's definitely good Halloween fun for the little ones.