Hocus Pocus (1993)

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Hocus Pocus (1993)

A curious youngster moves to Salem, where he struggles to fit in before awakening a trio of diabolical witches that were executed in the 17th century.

Hocus Pocus (1993) Trailer


Hocus Pocus (1993) Reviews

“Hocus Pocus” is a film desperately in need of self-discipline.It’s one of those projects where you imagine everyone laughing and applauding each other after every scene, because they’re so convinced they’re wild and crazy guys. But watching the movie is like attending a party you weren’t invited to, and where you don’t know anybody, and they’re all in on a joke but won’t explain it to you.The plot involves three witches who are hanged in Salem, Mass., 300 years ago, and their bodies are placed under a curse. At the same time, under conditions too bothersome to explain, a young boy is turned into an immortal cat. Flash forward 300 years, as the witches are resurrected at Halloween time in present-day America, and the cat is still hanging around, and modern characters including cute little Dani (Thora Birch) and Max (Omri Katz) become targets of the witches’ wrath.
The movie is filled with special effects, lots of them, as the witches fly around on brooms and vacuum cleaners, and the cat develops the ability to speak. But the effects, the characters and the plot are all tossed into a confusing cauldron in which there is great activity but little progress, and a lot of hysterical shrieking.The witches are led by Bette Midler, who knows a good line of dialogue when she hears one, and must have suspected that she wasn’t hearing many from this screenplay, because she goes into her hyper mode and tries to use noise as a substitute for acting. Her sidekicks, played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, are more fortunate, in that they are given less to do. A story like this requires some kind of structure. Some sort of clean-cut goals to be won and fates to be avoided.Watching “Hocus Pocus,” I had no doubt that the filmmakers had talked their way through the plot to their own satisfaction, without stopping to ask if it could be followed by an audience. This is the kind of movie where the characters keep reciting the rules and reminding each other of their supernatural realities, shrieking in alarm while we stare indifferently at the screen.Of the film’s many problems, the greatest may be that all three witches are thoroughly unpleasant. They don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels. A good movie inspires the audience to subconsciously ask, “Give me more!” The witches in this one inspired my silent cry, “Get me out of here!”
  • Roger Ebert –  Roger Ebert
  • Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

It’s 1693 and a trio of witches (Winifred, played by Bette Midler; Sarah, played by Sarah Jessica Parker; and Mary, played by Kathy Najimy) are preparing a spell that will ensure them immortality and eternal youth. However, before the magic is complete, the people of Salem capture and execute them for consorting with the devil. Before their deaths, the witches vow to return on some future All Hallow’s Eve.

300 years later, a skeptic by the name of Max (Omri Katz) ventures into the ruins of the witches’ house, daring the supernatural to manifest itself. Heedless of warnings of his sister, Dani (Thora Birch), and schoolmate, Allison (Vinessa Shaw), Max lights the dreaded Candle of Black Flame. Suddenly, the three Sanderson sisters have a second lease on life, and this time they don’t intend to waste it. Now it’s up to Max, with the help of Dani, Allison, and a talking black cat, to correct his error and stop the witches before it’s too late.

Like so many films that mix genres, in trying to do too much, Hocus Pocus succeeds at very little. The comedy is sporadic and not often funny, the horror won’t frighten anyone over 8, and the adventure is dull and routine. As a family film, Hocus Pocus is passable — provided you don’t have particularly high standards.

In the absence of nonstop, uproarious comedy or pulse-pounding action, strong characters are needed. What we get, however, are poorly-developed caricatures taken from the writers’ stock of readily-available personalities. For the most part, the scenes intended to further relationships are laughably absurd.

Omri Katz is a poor choice for the hero. Actually, “hero” might not be the right word for his role — Max is so irritating that we wish the witches would stick him in their kettle and boil him alive. He treats his little sister like a burden (which is not entirely unrealistic for someone his age) and does some of the most amazingly stupid things. Everything that happens in Hocus Pocus is essentially his fault.

The normally-steady Bette Midler has fun chewing on the scenery. Clearly in her shadow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy give such muted performances that they’re virtually invisible. They do a lot of Three Stooges’ physical gags, but they haven’t mastered the timing.

Hocus Pocus lacks energy. Kenny Ortega’s direction is flat, and the cinematography is workmanlike. The film basically amounts to a great deal of pointless running around. The inventiveness that we keep expecting never materializes, and, by the end, we’re still wondering if and when something’s going to happen to galvanize this motion picture.

Hocus Pocus is an occasionally dull, mostly pedantic motion picture with little to recommend it. It belongs on the long list of summer movies that will quickly be buried and forgotten until the surface on video in six months. For real fun at the expense of the dead, see instead Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness.

  • A movie review by James Berardinelli

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Hocus Pocus (1993) Credits

Hocus Pocus movie poster

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Rated PG

93 minutes


Bette Midler as Winifred

Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah

Kathy Najimy as Mary

Directed by

  • Kenny Ort

Dennis The Menace Movie 1993


Hocus Pocus (1993) Plot

On October 31, 1693, in Salem, Massachusetts, Thackery Binx witnesses his little sister Emily being whisked away to the woods by the Sanderson sisters, three witches named Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. Binx confronts the witches, but fails to save Emily and her life force is drained making the witches young again. After that, Binx is transformed into a black cat by the witches, cursed to live forever with his guilt for not saving Emily. Having been alerted by Binx’s friend Elijah, the townsfolk arrest the sisters for the murder of Emily.

Before the Sanderson sisters were hanged in the town square while denying any knowledge on what happened to Thackary to Mr. Binx, Winifred casts a curse that will resurrect the sisters during a full moon on All Hallows’ Eve if a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle in their cottage. Binx decides to guard the cottage so no one can bring the witches back to life.

Three centuries later, on October 31, 1993, Max Dennison reluctantly takes his younger sister Dani out trick-or-treating where they meet Max’s new crush Allison. The three visit the former Sanderson cottage, now an abandoned museum, where Max inadvertently resurrects the witches. The witches attempt to suck the soul of Dani, but Max comes to her rescue.

Escaping, Max steals Winifred’s spellbook on advice from the immortal cat Binx. He takes the group to an old cemetery where they are protected from the witches since it is hallowed ground. The witches eventually catch up to them at the cemetery where Winifred raises her unfaithful lover Billy Butcherson from the grave and sends him after the children.

The witches pursue the children across town using Mary’s enhanced sense of smell. Winifred reveals that the spell that brought them back only works on Halloween and unless they can suck the life out of at least one child, they will turn to dust when the sun rises. After luring them to the high school, the children trap the witches in a pottery kiln and burn them alive. However, whilst the children are celebrating, the witches’ curse revives them again.

Not realizing the witches have survived, Max and Allison open the spell book, hoping to reverse the spell on Binx. The open spell book reveals the location of the group, and the witches track them down, kidnap Dani and Binx, and recover the spellbook. Sarah uses her singing to lure Salem’s children to the Sanderson cottage. Max and Allison free Dani and Binx by tricking the witches into believing that sunrise was an hour early. Thinking that they are done for, the witches panic and pass out, allowing Max, Dani, Allison, and Binx to escape.

Back at the cemetery, Billy catches up to the children, takes Max’s knife, cuts his stitched mouth open, and insults Winifred before joining the children against the witches. The witches attack from the air and snatch Dani. Winifred attempts to use the last vial of potion to suck the soul of Dani, but Binx knocks the potion out of her hand which Max catches and promptly drinks, forcing the witches to take him instead of Dani. The sun starts to rise just as Winifred is about to finish draining Max’s life force.

In the ensuing struggle, Allison, Dani, and Billy fend off Mary and Sarah. Max and Winifred, struggling in the air, fall onto the hallowed ground in the cemetery, causing Winifred to turn into stone. As the sun finishes rising above the horizon, Mary and Sarah are disintegrated into dust along with Winifred’s stone body. The witches’ deaths break Binx’s curse, allowing him to finally die and freeing his soul, reuniting him with Emily as they both head off into the afterlife while Billy returns to his grave to sleep.

Winifred’s spellbook opens its eye once more, revealing that it is still alive, indicating that the witches could possibly return again someday.

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Hocus Pocus (1993) Box office

Hocus Pocus was released July 16, 1993, and came in fourth place on its opening weekend, grossing $8.1 million. It dropped from the top ten ranking after two weeks of release. The film was released the same day as Free Willy. According to Kirschner, Disney chose to release Hocus Pocus in July to take advantage of children being off from school for the summer.

In October 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hocus Pocus was re-released in 2,570 theaters. It made $1.9 million over the weekend, finishing second behind Tenet. The following two weekends it made $1.2 million and $756,000, respectively.

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Hocus Pocus (1993) Critical Response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 39% based on 59 reviews, with an average rating of 4.9/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Harmlessly hokey yet never much more than mediocre, Hocus Pocus is a muddled family-friendly effort that fails to live up to the talents of its impressive cast.” Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 43 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B+” on an A+ to F scale.

Gene Siskel, reviewing for The Chicago Tribune, remarked that the film was a “dreadful witches’ comedy with the only tolerable moment coming when Bette Midler presents a single song.”[35] Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star out of a possible four, writing that it was “a confusing cauldron in which there is great activity but little progress, and a lot of hysterical shrieking”.

The Miami Herald called it “a pretty lackluster affair”, adding this comment: “Despite the triple-threat actress combo, Hocus Pocus won’t be the Sister Act of 1993. There are a lot of gotta-sees this summer, and this isn’t one of them.”

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film “has flashes of visual stylishness but virtually no grip on its story”. Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C−, calling it “acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell”; and stating that while Najimy and Parker “have their moments of ramshackle comic inspiration, and the passable special effects should keep younger campers transfixed […]

[T]he sight of the Divine Miss M. mugging her way through a cheesy supernatural kiddie comedy is, to say the least, dispiriting.”[39] Kim Newman of Empire Magazine gave the film two stars out of five, writing, “Trying to break expectations isn’t always a wise idea and here Disney show how not to do it. With this supposed-family movie, they disappoint on nearly every level. The plot is weak, the action poor and it’s got Bette Midler, simply dreadful.”

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Hocus Pocus (1993) Accolades

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Hocus Pocus (1993) Movie Info

After moving to Salem, Mass., teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) explores an abandoned house with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and their new friend, Allison (Vinessa Shaw). After dismissing a story Allison tells as superstitious, Max accidentally frees a coven of evil witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) who used to live in the house. Now, with the help of a magical cat, the kids must steal the witches’ book of spells to stop them from becoming immortal.

Dennis The Menace Movie 1993


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Hocus Pocus (1993) Pictures

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