Monday, October 24, 2011

The 31 Days of Halloween: Day 23

Halloween is the best time of the year. It's a wonderfully indulgent time, where your inner ghoul is given societal license to be put on display. To celebrate it to it's wicked fullest, the Midnight Cheese will be posting every day in October with excellent ways to enjoy the season. Whether it's horror films, video games, books or activities, check back every day for some new Halloween fun.

Hocus Pocus

"I put a spell on you and now you're mine"

This fun Halloween adventure film from Disney put a spell on me as a youth. You could easily write it off for any number of reasons without ever giving it so much as a chance. "It has Bet Midler" in it- so what? She chews up the scenery in such hammy fashion that you could sell her at the deli counter. "It also costars Sarah Jessica Parker"- Yeah but this is before she was annoying and she clearly has an excellent time in her role as the ditsy witch sister. "BUT IT'S FROM DISNEY!" So are Nation Treasure, Sky High and the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Are you done now? Can I stop debunking your doubts and move on to why you should watch Hocus Pocus?


Fun, adventure filled films seem to be a dying breed. Much lauded classics of the genre were a mainstay of the 80's and a holdover in the early 90's. Hocus Pocus came out in 1993 and fused the adventure film with a huge helping of Halloween flavor. It does take the easy road by setting itself in Salem, Massachusetts - but the film makers takes the standard tropes and do an excellent job mixing in some new twists.

The Sanderson sisters (Midler, Parker and Kathy Najimy) are a trio of wicked witches living in a cottage in the woods near in Salem. Our story begins in 1693, with the aged sisters preparing a potion which will restore their youth by stealing it from children. Young Thackery Binx fails to save his sister from this fate and is cursed by the witches into the form of an immortal cat (who can speak). Shortly on the heels of all this spell slinging, the villagers arrive and convict the witches to be hanged. Just before they can be, Winifred (Midler) recites a spell which will allow them to be revived if ever a black candle is lit by a virgin on Halloween.

From here we flash forward to present day, with our protagonist Max, who hates Halloween, is forced to take his sister trick or treating. As you can imagine, in hanging out with the girl he's crushing on at the town's witch museum, Max lights the candle and unknowingly bring the Sanderson Sisters back to life. What follows is a fun chase all around town and the witches need their spell book back to absorb Max's sisters life force before the sun rises. Binx, in cat form, guide the kids in the quest to beat the Sandersons.

There's a lot to love packed in here. The fish out of water nature of witches encountering modern technology and misunderstanding it is hysterical. Watching as Winifred begins to catch on and use the technology to her advantage - specifically the scene where she mixes magic and technology to curse all of the town children's parents to dance until they die - shows that she's not just the one dimensional antagonist that she could have easily been made into. There's a fun zombie played by an unknown Doug Jones (Abe Sapien of Hellboy fame) that's unlike nearly all shambler portrayals as you think of them. Of course, the Salem/witch historical aspect is really cool too, even though it's extremely inaccurate.

Of course the nature of Hocus Pocus means that the perfect time of year to check it out is right around the witching season. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about and if you haven't then drop a few preconceived notions and check it out.

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