• David Osgar

Sunday Movies- Hocus Pocus

"Sisters!" A line you simply must announce in a high toned voice, whether it be to sisters, brothers, or your imaginary siblings when pondering what family-friendly treat to pop on the small screen during Halloween.


Welcome to Sunday Movies, a series that focuses on well known and forgotten films that are perfect to rewatch, sit back and relax with, before a week of work.


When you try to think of a "Halloween movie", and not your run of the mill horror flick, it's actually quite hard to think of one, especially compared to the likes of Christmas films which are a dime a dozen (no wonder Jack Skellington got jealous).


But if there's one company that has your back it's of course, Disney, the studio that is just a few greeting cards away from having its own holiday.


Just looking at Disney Plus gives you a glimpse of the oddball Disney channel movies crammed into their back catalogue (trust me I've had to endure a few). While the heading "Halloween Movies" may leave you disappointed to not be greeted by the knife-wielding maniac Michael Myers, there certainly is an abundance of films that in this day and age would have no right in existing.


The only Halloweentown I know is from the imagination of Tim Burton and Henry Selick, but apparently, there is another version deserving of a sequel that sees Kalabar take revenge. (Who the hell is Kalabar?)


But the most famous of all these Halloween movies is the one and only Hocus Pocus, a classic staple of the Disney channel, and home media, that did in-fact have a theatrical run in July 1993 (yeah July, what the hell Disney?)


The fact Hocus Pocus was released in cinemas and is now having a resurgence on streaming is quite ironic for a film of a bygone age that would never be made today. It's well known that over the past few years Disney has thrown the towel in on making smaller productions for cinemas, only focusing on tentpole franchises, and even when producing other works for the small screen, it's usually an adaptation or committee made project to appeal to a set demographic.


It's why Hocus Pocus is up there with the likes of Labyrinth and The Iron Giant as a cult film, that has garnered fans, and loyalists over the years who love its odd, quirky, and lovable tone.


Whether you grew up with this 90s classic or not, the imagery, music, and characters have become infamous in pop culture, thanks to the amazing performances and dedication from the production team.


Bette Midler's high pitched voice and expressive performance. Sarah Jessica Parker's flirtatious persona, and alluring singing. Along with Kathy Najimy's classic slanted mouth, and bumbling body language makes the Sanderson sisters a joy to watch. They are undoubtedly the reason this film has become a classic, with the costume and make-up departments outdoing themselves to take what could have been three standard witches, three individual characters each with an iconic look. Perfect for mimicking at a Halloween party.


Plus it always helps to link your character to a primary colour. The sisters' red, green, and purple cloaks are not only perfect for the season but a great tool in creating the film's iconic posters and artwork seen on many a VHS cover during the format's heyday.


Ah that warm feeling of a VHS shelf, filled with many a Disney animation, a copy of Casper, Madeline, Hocus Pocus, and Mouse Hunt. What better reason to make Hocus Pocus a Sunday movie?


While it may not be perfect in regards to characters or storytelling, Hocus Pocus benefits as many fun, comforting films do, by being chock full of memorable moments. The "I Put a Spell on You" song, the flying broomsticks (or whatever is available in the cleaning cupboard), along with Binx the cat all make the film just pure fun. It's an impressive production, especially for the time it was made and its small budget.

Vinessa Shaw and Omri Katz in Hocus Pocus (1993)

The visuals like the sister's sinister cottage, coupled with the moonlight sky, and sets such as the graveyard and the Halloween party again prove this was a different time in Hollywood. Bold visuals, explosions, and detailed props are giving to a film with no source material, or a major reason for the studio to have faith in the project. A film they had enough confidence in that they released it in the peak of summer... They really did set themselves up for failure there with that one.


Despite its lacklustre box office, the film generated an abundance of viewers and memories thanks to home media and television reruns, making it a classic akin to The Grinch at Christmas.


With sequel rumours having been circulated for years, plans are now finally been cemented thanks to the streaming service the original film is currently trending on. Just how VHS and TV brought Hocus Pocus to a bigger audience, today's equivalent means they can easily access both the original film and sequel right in the comfort of their own home, making a new type of holiday tradition.


Over the years Disney has capitalised on Hocus Pocus, with the property perfect for adaptation in their theme parks and merchandise. Waltzing through Disney Land in October means Sarah's Theme (the siren song to lure children) plays eerily in the background, while actors portray the sisters in Halloween shows, and parades throughout the season. This demonstrating how well the characters translate to the stage thanks to the theatrical, almost pantomime like appeal of the witches.


Hocus Pocus is a perfect film to put on to get you in the Halloween spirit, with the back and fore action working in the context of a story to relax with even if it's just in the background. Hocus Pocus provides that soothing nostalgia, and a reminder of a simpler time as it's filled with laughs, and iconic moments.


Disney would be wise to build on the brand, just as they did with another seasonal favourite, but we won't get onto that till next Sunday...


Make sure to stay tuned to Disney Plus for the inevitable sequel, Hocus Pocus 2 Kalibar's Revenge.



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