Throwback Thursday: ‘Hocus Pocus’ proves darker than we remember

Sarah Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as the Sanderson sisters in Hocus Pocus.

Sarah Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as the Sanderson sisters in “Hocus Pocus.”

Nicole Schroeder

Since its release in 1993, Walt Disney’s Hocus Pocus has put a spell on audiences both young and old with its well-known cast and fun storyline. With such familiar names as Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, it’s easy to see why.
As a kid, I remember watching the movie as a tradition around Halloween. I was happily engrossed in the story of the Sanderson Sisters’ return to Salem and the resulting chaos. I loved watching as three kids who inadvertently brought the witches back to life, Max (Omri Katz), Dani (Thora Birch) and Allison (Vinessa Shaw), tried to keep the witches from luring in more children and living past dawn, when the spell runs out and they turn to dust.
Even after watching the movie again recently, much of the movie’s original charm persists, though there are some parts that I am now slightly disappointed to understand.
Though the movie is comedic and has many jokes throughout to keep viewers laughing, I found some of the jokes to be a little crude, particularly for a Disney show. Granted, similar jokes can be found in other popular Disney movies like The Incredibles or Aladdin; even so, I found myself cringing at the bus driver’s comments to the witches for their “desire [for] children” and at Dani’s innocent mention of Max loving Allison’s “yabbos.”
Along with a few more inappropriate jokes, the storyline of the movie includes some darker undertones that I didn’t notice in the past. Now however, after rewatching the movie, a few elements of the story seem surprisingly macabre. The witches’ overarching desire for young children that they can suck the life out of in order to make the witches young again and the hanging that occurs at the beginning of the movie, admittedly shocked me. Such themes are almost too dark for a children’s movie in my belief, even if the plot does center around witches and Halloween.
Despite the movie’s flaws in appropriateness for child audiences, I can still say I laughed and smiled along with the characters throughout the film. Parker’s, Najimy’s and Midler’s performances each proved their amazing talent and humor as the three took on the characters of the spooky witches haunting Salem, Mass.. Even if the characters’ humor doesn’t impress you, the family values woven throughout the plot are ones that everyone should be able to appreciate.
In true Disney fashion, the movie’s soundtrack is yet another noteworthy aspect to the movie. Though there were only two songs, both were equally spooky and catchy, and the soundtrack pieces themselves added another playful yet haunting aspect to the film. After watching it again, I can unashamedly promise “I Put A Spell On You” and “Come, Little Children” will both stick in your head for days, just as they will in mine.
Hocus Pocus is a fun family Halloween movie, filled with equal parts spookiness and hilarity. Despite a few scenes with a little more adult humor than I would’ve liked, I still found myself as engrossed in the movie now than I was back when I first watched the film — the unmistakable mark of any Disney movie as successful as this one.