I’m Cursed with a Love for Hocus Pocus, and I’m Not Mad About it

The first day of fall for the 2018 calendar year is September 22nd. That is the day I will neglect to schedule plans, put on my coziest and cutest pair of pajamas, and pop enough popcorn to sustain me for the next ninety-six minutes. It’s time for Hocus Pocus.

Hocus Pocus tells the story of the three Sanderson sisters, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary. The Sanderson sisters are evil witches whose specialty is sucking the lives out of children in hopes of remaining forever young. They are eventually put to death in 1693, but vow to return on Halloween night when a virgin lights the black flame candle.

I can’t explain the phenomena that is Hocus Pocus. I have no idea why my entire generation measures our Halloween nostalgia in Sanderson sister viewings. According to The Numbers.com, Hocus Pocus has pierced the top ten bestsellers list on Amazon every October for the past seven years. According to Freeform Hocus Pocus airings attract over one million viewers each year, with Hocus Pocus breaking its own record with 1.3 million viewers in 2016.

Perhaps we love it simply because we saw it for the first time when we were kids. It is the claymation of Halloween movies. Our parents didn’t worry about leaving us in front of the television under the watchful eye of Bette Midler. Or to be practical, the rights were incredibly cheap since the original release was panned by critics.

It’s simple really, it takes me back to my childhood Halloweens. I miss the days when my costumes were homemade. My mom never spared and detail. When I told her I wanted to be Dorothy of Oz for my fifth Halloween my sleeves were starched stiff and puffy, my hair was full of gel and expertly braided, and my shoes were coated in five layers of glue and red glitter. I yearn for a good old-fashioned Halloween party that featured spooky hits like Frank Sinatra’s “There’s no Nicer Witch than You.” And most of all I miss running up to friendly porch lights in the pursuit of anything Reeses and an inevitable adventure with my brother in tow.

Hocus Pocus fills a nostalgic void for millennials. According to Christina Cauterucci’s essay that was published by NPR in 2013, “Watching a movie repeatedly, especially 20 years after its release, is a powerful way to mark the passage of time.” Max gives his number to Allison on a piece of paper he ripped out of a spiral notebook. The characters never text their parents when they’re in trouble you know fighting off evil witches and stuff they have to go find them in person. This is one of the final important movies of our childhoods before the internet really became a thing.

If the sibling storylines doesn’t make you want to call your brother or sister and tell them you miss playing imaginary games where you save your unsuspecting town from three witches, then you need to re-evaluate your priorities. The Binx family represents unconditional love and sacrifice. But Dani and Max’s relationship demonstrates the importance of trust and comfort between a brother and sister. While Max pouts about looking dumb in front of Allison, at any given moment Dani is going to tell another stranger that her brother is a virgin. Dani must trust that her brother will always be there, or else she wouldn’t test his patience to the extent she does. That kid has some serious, what do you call them Max, yabos?   

But I can’t forget the greatest sibling trio of them all, the Sanderson sisters. I know they’re evil, but they are a badass band of witches. Winifred has a body count of men ranging from the devil himself to Billy the friendly zombie. Sarah literally lures men in with the sound of her voice, and Mary spends half the movie trying to fly a vacuum.

We can thank Hocus Pocus for blessing our generation with a Halloween cult film that is full of powerful female characters, both good and evil. The leading ladies of Salem are as clever as they are funny. It is the male characters that fall into the unflattering tropes usually occupied by women. Billy is a scorned lover, the bus driver is a thirsty player, “the master” impersonator is a fool, and Max is the careless idiot who released the sisters back onto the Earth in the first place. And finally there’s a movie fixated on the sexual status of men. We can even credit Hocus Pocus with attempting to debunk the myth of virginity.

Hocus Pocus has had me under its spell since I was a kid and I’m not mad about it. I would even dare to say the curse is stronger now than ever.

Art by Nic Sugrue