Saturday, 13 October 2012

Hocus Pocus: Why it's The Best Kids Halloween Film.

If you, like me, are a child who grew up in the 90s, then there is nothing quite like whacking on 'Hocus Pocus' to get you in the mood for Halloween. It's the age old story of a virgin who lights a black flamed candle and brings back to life a trio of 300 year old witches. Oh yeah, and they plan to suck the lives of all the children of Salem. It is by far my favourite Halloween film ever and here's why...

It's hard to believe that this cult classic was not a huge box office hit when it was first released. Mutilated by the critics and ignored by the cinema going public, it wasn't as successful as Disney initially intended. But over the last twenty years, it's audience had grown thanks to video sales and TV reruns, which is of course how I discovered it.

The film begins with a traditional Disneyesque opening of the story book, which soon cuts away to a very ominous figure flying over the landscape (and credits) to the historic town of Salem. Now, the Salem witch trials is a subject that I personally find extremely fascinating, but is  it really the kind of topic to make a kids film about?

The tone however is set early on by the witches as much lighter and more fun then horrific and scary. The majority of the humour comes from these three charismatic leads who have been thrown into the culture of the 90s, a shock not only for the three hundred year old witches but for anyone I'm sure. (Just check out the floppy hair and tie dye t-shirt the main character Max wears.) 
A fish out of water comedy hidden in the guise of a dark Halloween story of a group of women who kill children to stay young forever, an immortal cat (Thackery Binks, the inspiration behind Salem in Sabrina?) and the odd zombie thrown in for good measure, how was this film ever a PG?
Bette Midler is, by a long way, the best thing about this movie, with her brassy charm, witty one liners; "Another glorious morning... makes me sick!"  and of course her amazing singing ability (that she always seems to be able to squeeze into every film she makes) the highlight has to be Midler's incredible performance of 'I Put A Spell On You'.
The relationship the three sisters share is great fun to watch, as the other two blindly follow the enigmatic Midler's lead, I love them both. Sarah Jessica Parker for her creepy siren song, stupidity and love for young boys, which gets them into trouble on more than one occasion. And Kathy Najimy for her bloodhound nose, vacuum cleaner flying antics and surprising knowledge of culinary skills. Their naive, love/hate sibling relationship has a sweet charm about it that makes them likable, even though they're evil witches hell bent on sucking the lives out of innocent children, bless 'em.
The three kids and the immortal cat who we follow as they attempt to put these three old crones back in the grave (even if we don't really want them to) do a good job of filling screen time away from the witches, but the will-they won't-they budding romance between Max and the girl whose name I can't remember is over shadowed by a very talented young actress, Thora Birch (Where is she now?).

She is knowing without seeming like a adult in a childs body and sweet without ever being annoying like so many child actors can be, I wont name names. I love it whenever they try and explain to any adults in Salem whats going on; she always mentions that her brother,  a virgin, lit the candle, embarrassing him on multiple occasions.

All in all, this film might not be the best ever and while some critics have called it clunky, tacky and over acted, whats the problem with that? It just adds to the camp, ridiculous fun of this movie which I love and will continue to watch every Halloween for the rest of my life.

What do you think? Let me know, feel free to comment, follow, plus and share.

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