Walt Disney Pictures
Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info.
Listen, if you didn’t immediately start singing Halloween songs (that you probably made up) the second it turned October 1st, we can’t be friends. Syfy does 31 days of Halloween, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the people responsible for Tara Reid’s career resurgence show me up. All month long, I’m watching Halloween movies I haven’t seen and talking about them to people who probably have seen them. (That would be you guys.)
We’re going to kick things off with a movie people have been telling me to watch for years: Hocus Pocus, starring The Divine Miss M and Carrie Bradshaw and Peggy Hill. (Seriously, she did the voice in King of the Hill. Look it up.) Also worth noting is that it has Doug Jones (you know, Abe Sapien) in an early role as Billy the Zombie and was written by Mick Garris, who later went on to direct every TV adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever and brought us the excellent Masters of Horror Showtime series.
I’m going to come right out and say it. I wasn’t super impressed with this movie. I get that it’s twenty years old and a kid’s film and not at all meant to be serious, but that’s no excuse. There is one thing that kept coming up, over and over, that just completely ruined the film for me:
There’s a talking fucking cat, and that never comes up when people don’t believe them.
Look, when Max (who is a total douche, but I’ll get to that) goes to light the black flame candle, Binx attacks him to stop him. No. No. What should have happened was that Binx would say, “Hey, don’t light that candle. That’ll bring the witches back because their curse is real. Magic is totally real. You can trust me. I’m a talking cat.” Movie over.
When they’re at the town hall dance and spending way too much time trying to convince the townfolk that the witches are back, why the hell didn’t they pick up the talking cat to tell everyone? “Hey guys, these kids are telling the truth. Take it from me, an actual, real talking cat.” I’m not trying to be that guy who’s nitpicking just to be shitty. That is just a massive, insane plot hole because the movie conveniently ignores something it already established. (That “something” being a talking fucking cat.)
Enough about the cat. Let’s talk about our leads. There’s Max, who is, right away, established as the biggest wiener in movie history. The dude hands his number to a girl in class like he’s hot shit in a champagne glass. They play him up as being “cool” because he’s from California and likes tie-dye. His parents buy him expensive cross-trainers. I could go on. This kid is so insufferable that he creates a singularity of goober so large that it threatens to rend the film itself asunder.
The female lead is such a non-entity that I just had to look up the film on IMDB to remember that her name is Allison. She’s a feminist perspective on film’s worst nightmare. She’s seriously nothing but a trophy for Max to win, somehow. Even though the whole thing is Max’s fault in the first place. And he sucks.
Then there’s Max’s little sister, Dani, who is easily the strongest heroic character in the film. In fact, I would like to take this time to nominate her for a spot in the roster of least annoying children in cinema history. She doesn’t put up with shit, from the witches nor her idiot brother. She calls out her idiot brother for being an idiot. She’s willing to take care of a cat who apparently has it in for them, judging by the way he keeps dropping the ball. She makes friends with a zombie. The little girl is pretty chill is what I’m saying.
But I guess I can’t play stupid. I know why people like this movie. It’s because of the witches. They’re dumb, but in an endearing way. They’re out of their element. They don’t understand the world they’ve been thrust into, but they manage. It works. Really, you want them to win, partly because the movie has saddled us with protagonists who are useless, but also because they’re just fun. I dig it, I really do. But it’s a Disney movie and they have to lose. Truly, a cinematic disappointment.
I’m going to be frank, of all the movies I’ve watched so far for this project, this has been by far my least favorite. A lot of these movies, I understand why they became classics. I’ve come to enjoy them myself. It’s clear why they’re beloved, and it’s because they’re good films. You can read what I’ve said about them. I’ve been super positive on everything except maybe Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I didn’t even think I was being hard on it when I wrote that one. (It’s a good movie and I did like it, I promise.)
Hocus Pocus is just… not good. I’m not opposed to kid’s movies. I’m really not. I liked Dumbo, for goodness’ sake. This movie was just stupid, had bad characters, and didn’t even follow its own logic. Best guess, it’s pure rose-tinted nostalgia that keeps this one bobbing up each Halloween. (I didn’t even mean to make that pun, but now I’m leaving it there.)