Photo courtesy of Hidden Remote.
The scariest time of the year has officially arrived, with caricatures of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins hanging outside of people’s windows, apples being picked from orchards, and countless visits to pumpkin patches.
Grabbing a cozy blanket and sipping apple cider while watching Halloween movies sounds like an ideal evening to most millennials and Gen Z folks, and with streaming services expanding by the milliseconds, there are so many options to choose from. One classic go-to Halloween movie that immediately pops into the minds of those in this age demographic is “Hocus Pocus.”
The first “Hocus Pocus” film was released in 1993, making it nearly three decades old.
Directed by Kenny Ortega (whose most notable directorial works include the “High School Musical” and “Descendants” trilogies, “The Cheetah Girls 2,” “Newsies” and “Michael Jackson’s This Is It”), the movie focuses on a teenage boy named Max, his little sister Dani and his crush Allison as Max accidentally resurrects the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches who were executed in 17th century Salem for the murder of a young girl in their village.
When 24-year-old Bergen County resident Jayde D. first saw “Hocus Pocus,” she said she was probably around 10 years old and greatly enjoyed it during her youth.
Her favorite thing about the movie is the way it reminds her of her childhood.
“I think what I always liked about Hocus Pocus is that it has a very ’90s nostalgic feel to it. Something about it really reminds me of my childhood, even though my childhood was in the early 2000s,” she told Slice of Culture.
With dozens of shows and movies from earlier times being criticized for a lack of sensitivity around certain social topics, some people have questioned the principles of “Hocus Pocus.”
“The original is good, but some things in the movie have definitely not held up in terms of social norms when you go back and rewatch it. I guess that’s where the ’90s feelings come in because some of the things that were said in the original definitely couldn’t be said in the sequel today,” Jayde said.
“Hocus Pocus 2,” a Disney+ exclusive, also primarily focuses on the Sanderson sisters being resurrected when a virgin lights a candle on All Hallow’s Eve during the full moon.
However, there are only female protagonists in this movie, as teens Becca, whose birthday falls on Halloween, and her best friend Izzy light the candle that brings them back.
While they do rituals for Becca’s birthday every year, they originally did them with their now estranged friend Cassie, which is seemingly a parallel to the Sanderson trio. After discovering that Becca is also a witch when she gains her powers on her 16th birthday, the three girls reunite to save Cassie’s dad, the mayor of the town, from the sisters’ wrath.
Another aspect of the film that’s similar to the original is that Becca and Izzy are immediately shown to be outcasts, which is similar to Max’s character arc in the original.
While Becca and Izzy aren’t new to their school, Cassie’s boyfriend Mike makes fun of them for buying crystals and visiting the local magic shop. Gilbert, the owner of the shop, gifts Becca the candle for their ritual that resurrects the sisters, which we later find out was his intention all along.
With reboots and remakes of movies and shows still remaining all the rage these days, it’s no surprise that “Hocus Pocus” would follow suit.
“I know that they’ve been talking about this sequel for a long time because I remember they were talking about it back in 2016,” Jayde said.
She was genuinely surprised when they released the trailer for the sequel because she “always thought that they were just talking about it but were never going to make it.”
So who reprised their roles from the 1993 Halloween classic? The only original characters from the sequel are the Sanderson Sisters and Billy Butcherson, but the rest of the cast (and the director Anne Fletcher) are all new to the “Hocus Pocus” world.
When Jayde learned more about the sequel, she was excited to see it focus more on female empowerment than the first film, as there’s now a mostly female main cast.
“I feel like the sequel can be really empowering to young women, kind of having this sense of sisterhood, even though the main three characters were not actual sisters. I think it’s good for young girls to have this view of lifting each other up no matter what they are going through,” she added.
The idea of sisterhood remains prevalent after the Sandersons are gone, as the three girls rekindle their original friendship and have a stronger bond than ever. Through their absence, the three girls learn the power of friendship, as Winifred immediately casts a reuniting spell to reunite with her sisters after learning that they turned to dust once she became an all-powerful witch.
As a huge fan of the original movie in her youth, Jayde had mixed feelings on the sequel.
“It was a modern Disney movie, which has the same cookie cutter plot to it as the other modern ones. I can appreciate, at the risk of sounding old, that technology was not heavily relied upon in this movie. I can also really appreciate that the Sanderson sisters were in the movie as much as they were, but I just feel like these kinds of movies can go on for a little too long,” she said.
While both the original and the sequel run for about the same amount of time (1 hour and 36 minutes and 1 hour and 43 minutes, respectively), the sequel’s iteration of the mystical happenings in Salem somehow felt much longer than the original.
The different directorial direction, as well as the fact that most of the main cast were not featured in the sequel, contributed to the lack of excitement towards the sequel among millennials and older Gen Z who grew up watching the original every year.
While the film included bits of nostalgia and connected newer characters to older ones (mainly with shopkeeper Gilbert being at the cemetery in 1993 when the Sanderson sisters were first defeated, which made him want to revive them again), the overall plot left much to be desired.
The friendship trio among the new cast quickly rekindled, but it was difficult to tell if all three girls would remain friends now that the town is no longer in danger. With an ending that upset old and new audiences alike, it’s hard to imagine that this series could ever be a trilogy.