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[Theater Thursday] PopCultHQ Presents: ‘Hocus Pocus’- Magical Mayhem & Mischief

“Oh look, another glorious morning. Makes me sick!”- Winifred Sanderson

Halloween is now just days away. The time of ghosts, goblins, costumes and candy is almost here and gone. And so to wrap up the month of October, it’s time for a trip back to the 1990s and a classic spooky movie spectacular. It’s time to visit 1993, a year that saw the emergence and collapse of many new and old independent comic book companies, Star Fox was released for the SNES and publication of Rodman Philbrick’s ‘Freak the Mighty.’ At the same time, Walt Disney’s horror-comedy Hocus Pocus opened in theaters nationwide that July. And while it had a somewhat lackluster performance box office-wise, it has achieved a high cult following over the years since then.

Bette Midler (left) and Kenny Ortega

Directed by Kenny Ortega (choreographer for 80’s classics Pretty in Pink, Dirty Dancing, etc.), this is one of those movies that will forever remain a treasured part of the Disney line. With its dark but goofy plot, tinged with song, stellar special effects and sterling performances from its three leading ladies, it’s no wonder Hocus Pocus has remained a favorite these last 24 years.

With Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker as the three Sanderson sisters, audiences are served up superlative acting from these accomplished actresses. Each sister plays her role exceptionally well and has her own unique and stand-out personality. With Bette as elder sister Winifred, Kathy as Mary and Sarah Jessica as Sarah, there is much malice and humor onscreen. As witches determined to live forever, these three find themselves dead in 1693 and then alive again 300 years later. While intrigued by the modern age, this does not deter them from the goal of sucking the lives from the children of Salem and spreading their wickedness far and wide.

        

But there is opposition to this vile plot in the form of Max Dennison (Omri Katz), Dani Dennsion (Thora Birch) and Allison (Vinessa Shaw). These three spunky 90’s kids may not have any magic of their own, but what they lack in power, they make up for in smarts and the drive to survive. Added into the trio is feline Thackery Binx (voiced by Jason Marsden), cursed by the sisters years ago for failing to save his sister from them. Together, they show the Sandersons that even 300 years later their witchcraft can’t stand up to pure hearts and youthful ambition.

Halloween and horror films always have special effects that blow audiences minds. Whether it’s the Wolfman’s transformation or Dracula turning into a bat, the magic of movies helps bring monsters to life. And Hollywood magic was used full force to allow Bette, Kathy and Sarah Jessica fly through the night on brooms. Using a complicated series of harnesses and pulleys, all three actresses soared through the “night sky.” Things were taken one step further as well for shots that called for the Sandersons to fly silhouetted against the full moon. Incredibly detailed puppets were created that looked human and had every detail worked into them. The end result? Another fine example of Hollywood at work.

As for songs, while Hocus Pocus may not have the music repertoire that Rocky Horror Picture Show boasts, it makes up for this with a killer number. All three witches put a spell on every adult in Salem, using the power of song with a fantastic backup band. Bette Midler takes center stage, singing her heart out, with Kathy and Sarah Jessica Parker on backup vocals. This serves up one out-of-sight arrangement that is still one of the highlights of the movie.

There are many different kinds of Halloween and horror films out there; some downright frightening (like Dracula or Jekyll and Hyde) and others that are just simply silly (like Rocky Horror Picture Show). And then there are movies like Hocus Pocus. These provide a story that has the classic scary edge mixed with humor and as a bonus, music. Ultimately, every person has different tastes when it comes to picking out their favorite flicks for the spooky season. But a 90’s classic like this one is too good to pass up from adding to the mix. So as the month of October draws to a close, and Halloween edges every nearer, make a point to have some fun before donning a costume and giving folks a good scare. Kick back with one’s nearest and dearest for a mighty Disney cinematic spectacular, and enjoy Hocus Pocus again.

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