Hocus Pocus (Blu-ray Review)

Conjure up a cauldron of silliness with Hocus Pocus,  now on Blu-ray for the first time, featuring new digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound.  Academy Award nominee Bette Midler (Best Actress, 1991, For The Boys), Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex In The City”) and Kathy Najimy (The Wedding Planner) star in a wild and wacky comedy for the entire family.  When three 17th century Salem witches are accidentally summoned by modern-day pranksters, the 300-year-old trio sets out to cast a spell on the town and reclaim their youth, but first they must outwit three kids and a talking cat.  Get ready for a night of surprises in this bewitching movie – now on Blu-ray!


Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are the Sanderson sisters – Winifred, Sarah and Mary. In Salem in the year 1693, a young boy named Thackary Binx (Sean Murray)realized that his sister Emily is being drawn into the woods by the Sanderson sisters, all of whom are witches.  The witches brew a potion that will allow them to stay young when they steal the life force of a child that has consumed the potion.  He tries, but Thackary is no match for the witches and he cannot save his sister.  Thackary insults Winifred and rather than kill him, she decides to make him suffer for eternity.  She turns him into an immortal cat so that he can be tormented by the knowledge he did not save his sister.  The witches are discovered and hanged but not before casting a final spell. Because of Winifred’s spell, Halloween night is cursed, the night when a virgin will bring them back from the dead and the sisters will devour the essence of the town’s children.

300 years later, the legend of the Sanderson sisters is well known in the town of Salem. Max Dennison (Omri Katz) and his family have just moved to town.  In school Max hears the story of the Sanderson sisters and is not a believer. Max is unhappy that he was taken from his home in Los Angeles and he does not want to participate in Halloween. His sister Dani (Thora Birch) is very excited about Halloween and her brother must take her trick or treating.  They end up at the house of a cute girl named Alison (Vinessa Shaw) from Max’s school.  In an attempt to get closer to Alison, Max tells her to prove his disbelief of the Legend of the Sanderson sisters wrong, Alison, Max and Dani head to the Sanderson House.

Alison tells Max of the legend and he is still not a believer.  He sees the black flame candle that is supposed to bring the witches back and he lights it.  Max, the virgin has just fulfilled the prophecy and the sisters return but Thackary, who is still in cat form, is there to warn the kids of their mistake.  The children head to the cemetery because the witches cannot tread on hallowed ground.  But Winifred’s dead boyfriend can.  Before he was buried, Winifred sewed his lips shut so he wouldn’t tell her secrets.  Revived, he chases the children for her.   The witches have until dawn to lure and consume the essence of the town’s children before they disappear forever.  Max, Dani, Tore and Thackary (now known as Binx) set out to stop them and to save Salem.

Hocus Pocus turned out to be a very dated movie, far less enjoyable than I remember.  In 1993 I was a junior in High School when this film was released and as far as I could recollect,  I thought I loved this film.  I thought it was one of the classic “bad in a good way” kind of movies like Monster Squad or Better off Dead.  Maybe I did love it back in 1993, but in 2012, I had a hard time drumming up even lukewarm feelings for it.  As directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, Newsies), the three stars turn in performances that are just weird and over the top throughout the movie.  Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy in particular are the worst offenders, with Midler’s fake teeth and weird voice and Najimy’s weird crooked mouth thing that I couldn’t help but watch fade in and out as she talked.

I had hoped that this would be a great Halloween flick for my son to watch in a few years, but I know the first thing he will ask is “what’s a virgin”.  I’m a little sad that this didn’t turn out to be one of my favorite holiday films like I had remembered it was, but almost 20 years later I just couldn’t get on board with it.  The story is weak and the acting is over the top, and that’s not a good combination.  If you are looking for a good Halloween movie to watch then skip this one and check out A Nightmare Before Christmas which is also from Disney.


For a 1993 film, the Blu-ray version of Hocus Pocus isn’t bad.  It seems to have aged a little better than other films of its age.  I wasn’t distracted by a significant of visual noise and there was a decent amount of fine detail, allowing you to appreciate the witches’ skin tones and other such things.  Hocus Pocus is presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen 1.85:1 ratio.


While certainly nothing to brag about, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio was sufficient for this film.  Hocus Pocus also offers French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.  The dialogue was clear and at a consistent level and volume from sound effects did not require adjustment.

Special Features  

The film has no special features on the Blu-ray or on the DVD.

Final Thoughts  

Hocus Pocus on Blu-ray wasn’t the movie I remembered, nor was it the good kind of silly I expected.  Maybe too many years have passed since I first saw it and y tastes have changed.  I was equally disappointed to see a complete lack of special features.  With movies like this I would hope to see a present day interview with the cast to see how people like Sarah Jessica Parker feel about their role now and whether or not they look back fondly on the experience.  It’s a simple thing but the discussion of the virgin aspect also limits the availability to a younger audience.  My son, whose favorite Halloween movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas, wouldn’t find any of the scary things in this film scary.  He might get a kick out of the talking cat, but I’m not letting him see it until I’m ready to explain what a virgin is…and that day is a long way off.

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