Hey, Geeks. Welcome to Your Favorite Thing Sucks, where I get to talk about all the worst parts of your favorite things. It’s Halloween, and I bet at least 70% of you reading this have already watched Hocus Pocus at least once this season, and that it’s one of those things you do every year. While everyone else in the world keeps saying,”Yeah. It’s a thing,” I’m sitting here wondering why more people aren’t saying, “Yeah. It’s a problem.” Let’s chat.
You’re Really Only in it for the Nostalgia
Every millenial I know watches Hocus Pocus at least once during Halloween season — and they have been doing so for decades. And every year I ask them why. “It’s soooooo good!” they respond. Really? What’s so good about it? “We watch it every year!” But WHY? “It’s so good!”
Hocus Pocus is not the kind of movie where you learn something new about yourself or life or the cosmos every time you watch it. The characters and the plot really aren’t compelling enough for the apparent rewatching that people put themselves through every single year. It’s not even that quotable. Try it. Pick one line from Hocus Pocus and find a way to quote it during a conversation. I will bet you one weird hairdo and Sarah Jessica Parker’s top that the person you’re talking to can’t tell you where it’s from afterward.
See this? This would have been a good one. And I’m almost positive you didn’t think of it.
So why do so many people watch Hocus Pocus every single year if they’re not getting anything new out of it? The answer: they don’t want anything new out of it. They’re in it for the nostalgia. A longing for that time when Hocus Pocus first came out and which you assume is the same time as the memories you surely associate with the film. But that’s not even true anymore, is it? No. Because at this point the memories associated with this particular witch movie all come from watching it every single year during your crappy adulthood rather than the childhood you’re trying to escape back to.
Isn’t that nice?
This Film Cannot Decide What It’s Going For
Have you ever really asked yourself what genre Hocus Pocus actually is? It tests the waters in a lot of different pools, but never quite takes the leap into any of them. It’s obviously not horror — but every now and again it thinks about being a kid’s ‘scary movie’ without ever quite making it. None of the jump scares or dark moments that come from Goosebumps, Coraline, or even The Nightmare Before Christmas.
There. 3 months later Jack Skelington was able to cement a movie that’s also partially about Christmas
as the spookier Halloween film of 1993. It took him 2 seconds.
Any time they get close to something frightening it’s immediately underplayed by jokes and easy comedy. Which is totally fine — if we want to call Hocus Pocus a comedy. But it doesn’t quite push itself hard enough to be a true laugh-filled hour and a half — especially for the age group it’s geared towards. And, despite its two songs that are actually sung by the witches themselves, it’s not a musical either. It’s a Halloween movie, sure, but if that’s what the makers were going for it probably wouldn’t have come out in the middle of the July. (Yeah. You read that right. Hocus Pocus came out on July 16, 1993.)
So it’s a… what? A children’s movie, but without the animation/claymation or the jokes that children prefer in their films? I suppose that’s possible (if we’re considering “children’s movie” its own genre), but I honestly do not know any children that like it. They all just watch it because their parents like it and make them watch it every year. Just another generation forced into the nostalgia binge in the future. But, hey. At least they’ll like it as adults. Which might have something to do with…
Hocus Pocus Makes the Viewer Strangely Aware of In-Universe Sex
I get that Max being a virgin is central to the overall plot of the film. I get this because they mention it an uncomfortable number of times in 90 minutes. And almost everything he does is an active move towards losing that virginity. Which is… fine. A lot of films are like that, and I’m all about a sex-positive household. But this movie is geared towards nine-year-olds. I have to assume at least one family out there has had to explain a new vocabulary word to their daughter still dressed as a ballerina after she heard “virgin” for the 9th time in one sitting.
It’s also particularly odd to me that Max’s little sister, Dani, seems to belittle him constantly for is lack of teenage sexual escapades. From the moment she catches him fondling a pillow (and pretending to then be Allison as she rolls around on his bed) to her constant reminders of why he was able to light the black-flamed candle, Dani is really just the first in a sea of prepubescent trick-or-treaters that know more than they should after the events of Hocus Pocus.
Ooh! This one! This is the quote you should have picked earlier.
Because you know your kids are going to start repeating it almost immediately.
And that’s just the regular-weird scenes. A single vocabulary word that surely won’t cause awkward dinner conversations come Thanksgiving. But there’s also Sarah Jessica Parker getting all… bosomy after someone mentions the word “children” (and basically everything else she says or does in the film, now that I think about it.) Oh. And this bit:
Listen. I get it. You’re going to watch Hocus Pocus this Halloween and every Halloween in the foreseeable future. And why not? It’s on nearly every channel (for you weirdos that still watch actual TV), and at least one of your friends is going to have an HP party. (But not the cool HP party you’re expecting when you show up in Slytherin colors and a misplaced sense of optimism). And, when you sit down to watch it you’ll be excited in those first few moments of the opening scene. You’ll experience that little bit of happiness that used to come before the internet, the uncertainty, and the dreary, tedious march to non-existence that you experience daily crept into your life. And you’ll try not to realize that that dreary existence is held loosely together by annual traditions that are, in turn, held loosely together by this sense of nostalgia and nothing substantial.
It’s like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery but without someone being granted a release from the inane traditions at the end of the tale.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.