Hocus Pocus – When Max accidentally summons the long-dead Sanderson witches in Salem, he, his little sister, Dani, and crush, Allison, find that only they can stop the witches from draining the life from the children of the town. Although the witches do not understand the modern world, their powers prove to be just as strong as they were 300 years ago. Will the trio of youngsters along with talking cat, Binx, thwart the witches’ plan before their evil intentions come to fruition or will the children of Salem suffer a terrible fate?

Hocus Pocus (1993) – Director: Kenny Ortega

Is Hocus Pocus appropriate for kids?

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10426100

Rating: PG

Running Length: 96 mins

Starring: Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Bette Midler

Genre: Horror, Comedy

REVIEW: ‘HOCUS POCUS’

What are the ingredients of a great Halloween movie? Witches? Spells? Kids in danger? Well, Disney’s classic kids’ horror ‘Hocus Pocus’ has all of these in spades as well as a large sprinkling of comedy throughout, mostly from Bette Midler’s larger-than-life Winifred Sanderson. While the youngsters play their parts well, it is the three sisters, Winifred, Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimi) that steal the show; Wini’s comically abusive nature (particularly towards the downtrodden Mary) providing many of the laughs.

Unusually for any horror film, but especially for a kids’ one, the protagonists (in this case Max, Dani and Allison) seek help from authority figures as soon as they are out of the depth and it is only once these avenues are closed to them that the are forced to take on the threat alone. Omri Katz as Max and Thora Birch as his little sister, Dani have great chemistry and Max’ unhappiness about his family moving from Los Angeles to Salem is believable and not over-done. Max’s love interest, Allison, is a little dull and unfortunately doesn’t really make much of an impact.

‘Hocus Pocus’ is most definitely a kids’ film (containing all elements that comes with that label) and therefore may not be everyone’s cup of tea, however it is certainly entertaining as a family movie and for those who enjoyed it as kids when it was first released and want the nostalgia trip, the movie remains as good as it ever was. It’s easy to see why it has achieved cult status as it is the sort of family film that you just don’t get anymore. So, enjoy!

CONTENT: IS ‘HOCUS POCUS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

A boy searches for his sister and discovers that she has been lured to an isolated house by three women. It is soon revealed that they are witches and have sinister intentions. When casting a spell, the leader of the witches recites an incantation which includes ‘a bit of mine own tongue’, all three witches then bite down and spit into a cauldron. None of them react to any pain but this could be imitable by younger kids. When the witches capture the boy, they threaten him with ‘let’s barbecue him and fillet him’, ‘hang him on a hook and let me play with him’, the fate they choose for him however is much more child-friendly.

The witches are captured and are seen standing on a scaffold with nooses around their necks. While an irate man demands to know the whereabouts of his son, the witches taunt him and are not at all fearful of their upcoming execution. A man gestures to proceed with the executions and a sound of the trapdoors opening is heard. A few gasps are heard from the crowd and a woman covers her face with her hand but nothing graphic is seen or heard here.

The story then moves from 1693 to present day where young teen, Max, has just moved to Salem. On his way home from school one day, he encounters two older boys who initially appear friendly but then turn into bullies. They ask him for ‘smokes’ but Max tells them he doesn’t smoke and they then ask him for cash, when he refuses this request they steal his shoes.

Max goes home and when in his bedroom, the camera ‘watches’ him through the slats of his wardrobe. The camera angle is accompanied by a sinister musical sting and it appears that someone (or something) is in there, looking out at him. When the presence is revealed, there may be a jump-scare but it is not anyone scary.

When Allison, the object of Max’s affection, is talking to Max and his little sister, Dani, Dani states that although he loved Allison’s costume, she couldn’t wear it as she doesn’t have any ‘yabos’. This is a term that Max apparently made up and seems to be a euphemism for breasts. Dani tells Allison that ‘Max likes your yabos, in fact, he loves them’. Allison laughs this off while Max is mortified.

When at a haunted house, a character reads that a book was ‘given to (another character) by the devil himself’ and is ‘bound in human skin’. A candle is discovered that is ‘made from the fat of a hangman’.

A character who is long-dead is explained to have been unfaithful to his lover so to get revenge, ‘she poisoned him and sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle’. This character is later resurrected, punching his way through his coffin and coming back as a zombie. His mouth is indeed sewn shut and he moans and mumbles as he chases after Max and co.

A bus driver flirts with the witches and when Winnifred tells his she desires ‘children’ he says, ‘it may take me a couple of tries but I don’t think that’ll be a problem!’

Binx, who has been turned into a talking cat gets run over by a bus. He is seen lying on the ground with his middle section flattened. The other characters become upset briefly but as Binx is immortal, he soon wakes up and is unharmed.

A chef goes to a tank full of lobsters and asks ‘who’s going for a Jacuzzi?’ He picks one up and says ‘Angelo, good lad!’

The children trap the witches in a huge oven and turn it on, they look through a window and watch as the witches try to escape and the flames approach them.

A character uses their fingernail to rip a line down a window screen, only their hand is in shot and this is quite creepy. Children could be scared by this, especially those sensitive to the idea of home invasion.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘HOCUS POCUS’ FOR KIDS?

Long considered a children’s comedy horror movie, ‘Hocus Pocus’ treads the thin line between ‘too scary’ and ‘not scary enough’ with precision. There is plenty of gruesome dialogue and the witches are just sinister enough to be taken seriously but they rarely stray into any territory resembling horrifying. Due to some moments that could be frightening for youngsters we feel this movie should be appropriate for kids aged 6 and over.

  • Violence: 1/5 (some mild slapstick-like violence)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (some final goodbyes are a little sad)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (towards the beginning of the movie, a scene changes and the first visual is of a fake skeleton suddenly lunging towards the camera which could create a jump-scare. When walking to a supposed haunted house, a character says ‘Legend has it that the bones of a hundred children are buried within these walls’)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (there are numerous mentions of virgins and Max is often referred to as a virgin to which he normally appears embarrassed or annoyed. A teen boy asks a friend is he ‘wants to look in windows and watch babes undress?’)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some insults, such as ‘moron’, ‘twerp’, ‘jerk’, ‘wench’, ‘trollop’. A woman calls one of the witches ‘tart-face’ for flirting with her husband. Some infrequent blasphemy)
  • Dialogue: 2/5
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of siblings, teenage crushes, superstition, Halloween, adults having deadly/sinister intentions with children, immortality, resurrection and witchcraft.

Words by Laura Record

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