Halloween Countdown: Hocus Pocus

Director: Kenny Ortega
Writer:     Neil Cuthbert
                Mick Garris
Starring: Bette Midler
                Sarah Jessica Parker
                Kathy Najimy
                Omri Katz
                Thora Birch
                Vinessa Shaw
                Jason Marsden
                Doug Jones
                Charles Rocket
                Stephanie Faracy
Rating:    *****

My last Halloween countdown focused on my favourite horror movies from the past; this year I thought I would go towards the family friendly Halloween. I am going to countdown 5 family Halloween films, from worst to best.

And here it is, October 31st, All Hallows Eve, Halloween...and the reveal of my all time favourite (family) Halloween film...Hocus Pocus. The film that slays all other films like it; it is hilarious, sassy, hammy and one of the most quotable films ever. The energy is on top form from start to finish, and nearly 25 years later I don't know anyone that doesn't want a sequel...including the cast themselves.

Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler
& Sarah Jessica Parker
300 years ago, and the Sanderson sisters, Winifred Sarah and Mary (Midler, Parker & Najimy) were executed for the use of dark magic and witchcraft. Present day (well 1993) and a virgin called Max (Katz) lights the black flamed candle, bringing the evil sisters back from the dead and putting himself plus his sister  Dani and crush Allison (Birch and Shaw) in danger. The three children must work together to stop the sisters from cementing their return before sunrise, of course with the help of a talking cat and a zombie.

Hocus Pocus is quirky and completely outlandish, so it needs over the top performances and fabulous actors to bring the story to life; luckily the Sanderson sisters have been cast perfectly. Najimy and Parker are strong and eccentric in their portrayals, with Najimy playing the dim-witted and dozy Mary, and Parker bringing sultry and seductive Sarah to life. They work beautifully together and bounce off one another, and their terrific turns help to boost the energy and efforts of their eldest sister, Winifred. Bette Midler takes on this tour de force of a character and at no point lets her slip or lose pacing. Midler fully embodies the wickedest of the witches, and camps it up to the highest level; her musical performance mid-film is enough evidence of that, and the world thanks her for it.

Vinessa Shaw, Thora Birch
& Omri Katz
The three children, played by Omri Katz, Thora Birch and Vinessa Shaw, are working with the best of the best in this film, and that shows in their performances. There is no room for people to slack opposite the three sisters, and the children give it their all at every given opportunity. You can especially see in Birch, the youngest of the three, the wonder she is experiencing whilst starring in the film. Even she, an actor on set, is being swept up by the spooky magic of it all, and as a child I was often jealous of her.

An eccentric and melodramatic film like this needed the right director, and Kenny Ortega was more than the perfect director for this. He knows how to put on a show, just see Michael Jackson: This Is It or any High School Musical film, and that skill comes, more than, in handy. His famous direction is even more evident whenever the sisters are on screen because they revel in every campy moments and flamboyant piece of dialogue, and the entire team together have made a cinematic gem. I for one will continue to dream for a Hocus Pocus sequel, and seeing as Bette Midler dressed up as Winifred this Halloween and is continuing to campaign for it, I'm hoping the sequel will come sooner rather than later.

Hocus Pocus - Trailer