In honor of Halloween, I’d like to take a moment to remember a spooky and sexy trio that changed the meaning of “hocus pocus” forever: the Sanderson Sisters. Below are my top 10 moments from the Disney Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker.
There are movies from your childhood that you re-watch as an adult and cringe because it’s awful, and therefore a tiny piece of your childhood purity has just died. Then there are films that you watch, and they are just as magical and glorious as the first time you watched them, and it rekindles your hope that maybe, in fact, you do have good taste in entertainment! Hocus Pocus is one of the chosen few that remains just as good with every subsequent viewing.
The Disney classic, in case you are unfamiliar, stars a trio of witches: The Sanderson Sisters. The leader, Winifred – or Winnie (Bette Midler) – works with her sisters, the salacious Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and the bumbling Mary (Kathy Najimy), to suck the life out of children in order to stay young. They are brought back to life for one night 300 years after their death by new-boy-in-town and Salem skeptic Max Dennison (Omri Katz), who is out trick-or-treating with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and the girl he wants to impress, Allison (Vinessa Shaw). Along with the vengeful and adorable cat-form of Thackery Binx (Sean Murray), the children must battle the sisters to save the town of Salem!
For those that haven’t seen it (go out and buy it) there are spoilers following. If you have seen it, please let me know what your favorite moment is, because I’m sure there are arguments for many other moments from this childhood classic. Please note: they are in chronological order, not order of importance.
1. Dani’s wiser-than-her-years line: “Then take her to the movies like a normal person.”
Dani, who is devilishly clever, has oodles of incredibly witty moments throughout the film, but the exchange between her and Max at Allison’s mansion is the most impressive. While angst-riddled Max tries to woo Allison by agreeing to go with her to the house of the Sanderson Sisters, Dani steps up with some much-needed advice:
Max: Dani, this is the girl of my dreams.
Dani: So take her to the movies like a normal person.
Max: Dani! Look, just do this one thing for me, and I’ll do anything you say. Please? Please? Please?
Dani: Okay, okay. Next year, we go trick-or-treating as Wendy and Peter Pan… with tights or it’s no deal.
The girl is a master of manipulation. She keeps up her antics as the movie continues, most notably when she pretends to have summoned the Sanderson Sisters herself.
2. Sarah the witch, just in general.
Okay, okay, I’ll admit I cheated. This isn’t a moment, but more an entire character, but still. How can you pick just one moment? Sarah Jessica Parker is magical as Sarah. The fact that she repeats everything that is said countless times as she dances about combined with the fact that she is constantly flirting with men, even at the dance when they are chasing the children… great. And of course the line, “I am BEAUTIFUL! Boys will love me”… irresistible.
3. This exchange between Winnie and the bus driver.
Winnie: We desire… children.
Bus Driver: Hey, it may take me a couple of tries, but I don’t think there will be a problem.
Re-watching this as an adult, I definitely had that double-take moment until it finally dawned on me: Hocus Pocus just made a sexual innuendo. While the entire bus driver scene is hilarious from the moment he flirts with them to Sarah sitting on his lap and driving, this small moment is a treasure that reminds us all: Disney is not just for kids!
4. Mary’s facial expression.
Okay, okay, I cheated again, because this isn’t a moment but a ubiquitous occurrence, but the way she keeps the bottom right side of her lip down like that is incredible. How did she keep that up throughout the whole film even as she spoke? Did make-up help? The lip slip just makes her dowdy character all the more comical.
5. The song and dance number, “I Put a Spell on You.”
It’s the most iconic moment in the film, so how could you not include it on a list such as this? The ladies take the stage, and it is by far Winnie’s shining hour! Winnie is hilarious throughout the film, but she comes to life (pun intended) that evening when she takes the stage.
6. The sisters are lured to the kiln by the learn-to-speak French tape.
This is an under-appreciated moment in the film, in my humble opinion. Max, Allison and Dani manage to corral the Sanderson sisters into the school’s kiln via a French tape in a boombox, and then watch as they burn, which is a very dark moment if you really think about it. The line Winnie utters when they exit the kiln sums it up nicely, “Hello, I want my book. Bonjour, je veux mon livre.”
7. The moment when Max pulls back the covers, revealing Sarah in his bed, not Dani, and the other sisters jump out of the closet.
While my mere description does not do it justice, this moment in the film is, dare I say it, actually scary. Let me just say that I watched this movie just last week with my 21-year-old roommate and she screamed when this happened. Hats off to you, Hocus Pocus, for frightening us even in our twenties!
8. When Billy, the zombie, cuts open his mouth that has been bound by Winnie for centuries, and just rips her a new one: “Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed, mop-riding, firefly from hell!”
This moment is laugh out loud funny, especially the inclusion of the term “firefly from hell.” I give total props to the writing team on that one, and making Billy a “good Zombie” is a clever twist. Plus, you know that someone had to give it to Winnie by this point.
9. When Thackery Binx is finally reunited with Emily.
You’re expecting this heartfelt moment where Emily hugs Binx who has spent his entire life trying to protect her and others like her, but no, Emily whips out a welcoming, “Thackery Binx what took thee so long.” This is one of the greatest moments of the film, because it’s the moment when you most want to slap little Emily upside the head and remind that little girl that he became a cat trying to protect you. And you didn’t even try to run away, so don’t even start with me! I take this offense of Thackery very personally, as you can tell.
10. One of the last shots where the two bullies, Jay and Ice, remain trapped in the large bird cages in the Sanderson Sisters’ home, and they begin singing “Row, row, row your boat” in rounds.
This is the culminating moment in my opinion. Good has triumphed over evil, and the bullies can only cope with it by singing a children’s song. Now that is magical.
There are many other moments and characters from the film who I didn’t talk about (I had to cut it off somewhere), so share your favorites. And remember that no Halloween is complete without a little Hocus Pocus.