I Just Watched 'Hocus Pocus' For The First Time And Boy Are My Arms Tired

Did You Watch 'Hocus Pocus' This Halloween? ME TOO!!!

Like A Christmas Story, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or knowing the words to “Auld Lang Syne” — Hocus Pocus zooms into the zeitgeist just once a year, but with startling focus. It is a pop culture reference point that demands deep familiarity and unwavering fandom…

So, each year at Halloween, in addition to stressing out about if this will be a year that I spend too much money piecing together an unnecessarily difficult costume from returnable Amazon Prime products, or a year where I pretend like Halloween doesn't exist, I also get a very specific kind of anxiety about the fact that I’ve never seen Hocus Pocus.

“YEAH TOTALLY ME TOO.” — ME, lying about having seen Hocus Pocus

Because people fucking love Hocus Pocus; especially on this, the 25th anniversary of this Halloween movie that was for some reason released in theaters in July.

The Hocus Pocus nostalgic tweets began around mid-October. The Freeform Hocus Pocus marathons started a week before Halloween (this year, apparently including a whole ass two-hour reunion special). Intimidatingly cool-to-be-uncool sister-band HAIM recreated "I Put a Spell On You." And the tipping point for me on deciding to finally watch Hocus Pocus this Halloween: a Billy On the Street featuring Tiffany Haddish wherein Billy and Tiffany seek an intersectional recast of Hocus Pocus' Sanderson witches. They ready:

But this Hocus Pocus anxiety of mine goes even deeper, like a Halloween turducken of pop culture shame: I know that I actually have seen Hocus Pocus — once. So, worse than never seeing it at all, I guess the movie simply made no impact on me the one time I did see it…

In the sixth grade, when Lake Air Middle School became easily sorted into those sixth graders who still trick-or-treated (lame and happy), and those who did not (not lame, not happy), my friends and I chose the latter.

Instead of dressing up like Britney Spears or 1999's hottest star, Regis Philbin, we gathered at a friend’s house to watch Hocus Pocus. I recall feeling unsure as to whether we had jumped the adolescent gun on not trick-or-treating this year, but also wanting desperately to believe that this new alternative — watching a scary movie and eating unearned candy with friends — could be just as fun. Because whether it was now or later, this was an unavoidable future.

Now that I’ve watched Hocus Pocus in earnest, I understand that it wouldn’t have been a scary movie anyway, even for an 11-year-old, because its villains are just the Sleeping Beauty fairy godmothers in drag (fabulously so). And I also now see that Hocus Pocus is kind of…EXACTLY about the existential terror of aging??? It’s no surprise then that the movie was not an ample distraction from my own 11-year-old crisis that I was not handling getting older in the correct way.

Not so different than the Sanderson sisters' quest for beguiling immortality, that sixth grade hot box of Twix-fueled anxiety was just the first of a lifetime's worth of wanting to stay young enough to have fun, but old enough to maintain the power that can only come with aging upward. It also could have been the first time — but certainly not the last time — time I identified with a band of hot witches.

Eighteen years later, I've now watched Hocus Pocus for real, on All Hallows Eve no less, and hey — it's super, super weird! It is a children's movie that hinges a surprising amount on children understanding the concept of virginity…

Also, it's a children's movie whose entire plot is motivated by child murder. And you're kind of rooting for the child murderers!


It begins, as so many classic children's movies do: with a child murder. In 1693 Salem, Massachusetts, Winifred (Bette Midler, iconic), Mary (Kathy Najimy, perfection), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker at a career high, not kidding) Sanderson are just your average trio of witches, trying to restore their youth and achieve immortality by sucking the life force out of a few local kids.

And, yes, that seems bad, but are they really trying to anything different than what I'm trying to do when I spend two hours a day browsing through Soko Glam? 

If it was as easy as sucking the life force out of one kid (above) — who, by the way, seems mostly unfazed by the situation , and maybe even a little ready for it — instead of figuring out which cleanse, double cleanse, toner, serum, essence combination will get rid of one zit scar from six years ago...then, yeah, I might buy a sucked-life-force sheet mask too, y’know?

These witches are vain as hell, and it is speaking to the basest desire in all of us.

Except ol' Thackery Binx, Emily's brother who, in my limited prior knowledge of Hocus Pocus, I always thought was played by the same kid who plays Max; but they are apparently two totally different floppy-haired actors, neither of whom is the kid from Everwood, another thing I've incorrectly thought for nearly two decades.

Anyway, Thackery fails to save his sister, so the witches curse him to "live forever with his guilt," another tough existential shot to shame-riddled middle-schoolers everywhere. [Ed. note: Heyyy, has everyone watched Big Mouth? WATCH BIG MOUTH NOW.]

The Sanderson sisters successfully suck Emily's soul, get young ("young-er") again, and turn Thackery into a cat, but are soon caught by those pesky Salem townspeople and, y'know, hung. Luckily, they set a spell in place just before they get ousted so that if a virgin ever lights their black-flame candle on All Hallows Eve, these bitches are back, Britney...


Max is our central protagonist, and I swear, I've always heard that kids who grew up on this movie had crushes on him, but that having seen it now, I find that really surprising on account of HOW MUCH HE SUUUCKS.

This kid from baby-ass-state-California and tries to mansplain Halloween to the teens of Salem, Massachusetts. When his teacher asks why he's scoffing at her quite feminist re-telling of the Sanderson sisters’ tale, he's all: "Granted, you guys here in Salem are all into these black cats and witches and stuff <pause for the collective gasp at "stuff"> but everyone knows that Halloween was invented by the candy companies."

And, if you can believe it, he claims that it's all “a conspiracy” (presumably still talking about the Salem Witch Trials here too, cool cool cool). Thank goodness for Queen Allison, a gorgeous young professional woman posing as a 9th grader:

"It just so happens that Halloween is based on the ancient feast called All Hallows Eve. It's the one night of the year where dead spirits can return to earth."


Max continues sucking by giving Allison his number in front of the whole class, saying, "In case Jimi Hendrix shows up tonight," which makes absolutely no sense. But Allison similarly continues her legend status by donning a red-hooded cloak and handing Max's number back to him, saying, "Trick or treat." Equally nonsensical, but cooler by far and not at all teetering on harassment!

Alas, Max’s sister Dani is so cute when they unknowingly show up to Allison's house for trick-or-treating (where it should be noted that she is wearing the coolest high schooler costume known to man: a masquerade ball gown), that Allison can’t help but say yes to Max's impromptu declaration they should all go check out the Sanderson sister's old house-cum-museum.

Thank goodness for Dani though because Thora Birch is...so good in this movie. I mean, I knew her to be great with pick-pocketing monkeys, and baby polar bears, and super-weird stuff. But I had no idea that in Hocus Pocus she is not only generally the brains of the evading-the-witches operation, but also pulls off a bold red lip as a six-year-old for the entirety of the film. I love her. 

And Max loves yabos. (Hey, Hocus Pocus — WTF???)


Aaaanyway, Max lights that candle and brings the Sanderson sisters back from the grave because he's a total fuckin' virgin. 

At first, the mentions of the candle needing to be lit by a virgin are very chill: just simple, witch-y fact. But once Max-the-virgin actually lights the candle, everyone seems to be super peeved with him, not so much for bringing back three witches who want to murder kids to restore pH balance to their T-zones in general, but mostly for being virgin enough to make it work at all. 

Dani is maybe seven-years-old, and she is constantly owning Max for being a virgin, no clarifying questions needed.

Of the select few Salem citizens who are fully down to believe the kids about the Sanderson sisters’ return — one of whom is a kind of hot zombie, and the other an old-timey-teen-turned-cat — no one can believe that 15-year-old Max is a virgin.

Max seems unconcerned with his virgin-status at the start of the movie, but after enough people have thrown it back in his face, he becomes quite defensive. As always, we must give our thanks to Disney for pulling more than their fair share of weight in seeding toxic masculinity as early as possible in our youths.


What Disney screws up with Max, they somewhat make up for in the Sanderson sisters though: three shining beacons of wonderfully weird witchiness. Yes, the Sanderson sisters get murdered by townspeople twice in the sub-two-hour run of Hocus Pocus but for a short time, these women are just out there getting what's theirs.

And yes, that does happen to be child-souls, so they're technically the villains, but you don't see people dressing up as Max 25 years later, do you? By making these witches so lively, and even pretty sexy (although I could do with a little less "hitting on children" out of Sarah), Hocus Pocus made them legends.

Yeah, they're stealing kids’ souls or whatever, but they're doing it with style. Everybody loves them, and it might take another rewatch to be sure, but I'm almost positive their performance of "I Put a Spell On You" incites an orgy for the adults of Salem at Town Hall. Witches — not so bad now, are they, townsfolk?!


But in the end, Dani, Allison, and Max thwart the Sandersons' plans to eat all the Salem children's dewy, dewy life forces. First, they try to burn them alive in the cremation studio in their high school, natch. But when that doesn't work, they just wait for the sun and cemetery's sacred ground to do its thing. 

Thackery Binx is freed of his eternal guilt and cat boy, and the ghost of an old-timey-teen comes out to join the ghost of Emily: the girl who did nothing to save her own life, and got her brother put in a cat body. And this ghost girl has the nerve to be all: What took thee so long, Thackery Binx?

You'll never guess what he replies as they head into the eternal distance...


Reader, I died. This movie is absurd; you may watch it as many times as you like. Just please don't eat any kids’ souls. See you back here later this week for more TATBT.