You can keep your Halloween. And your Halloween II and the remakes and even Halloween 12: Whatever It’s Basically Like the Others. For my money, I won’t be sitting down with Michael Myers or Freddie Krueger on October 31. I will be indulging on a traditional childhood favorite: Hocus Pocus.
You can roll your eyes or shrug your shoulders all you want, but Hocus Pocus is the best Halloween movie – and I’ve got 10 reasons why I’m right.
10. A little something for everybody
If you pop in most horror movies, that’s pretty much what you’re going to get: horror. Pretty one-note. Run, scream, knife, blood, the end. Hocus Pocus is a jack of all trades. Equal parts parody, zany adventure and a dose of creepiness. It’s family-friendly enough for the tykes, but with a sense of humor that’s more adult. Basically, it rocks the Pixar method of success before Pixar was even around.
9. Zombies before zombies were cool
Sure, zombies are all the rage now, and The Walking Dead is an uber-mega-hit. You even have a new trend in teen novels where zombies are now becoming love interests. (No, I’m serious.) Hocus Pocus had this covered way back in the day with Billy, one of the most gangly and lovable zombies you’re apt to meet. Bonus? He’s not going to try and eat your brains, so everybody wins.
8. Little Thora Birch
Thora is probably best known for the acting work she did in her teen years – things like American Beauty and Ghost World. My favorite Thora, though, is as sassy, precocious 8-year-old Dani who’s willing to get in someone’s face if they’re trying to steal her soul. It doesn’t matter that she isn’t your little sister; you want Max to save her just as badly as he does.
7. Here’s to practical effects
After just watching the recent release of The Thing prequel and its rather laughable CGI, it’s nice to spend some time with a movie that embraces practical effects. We’re talking broomsticks-suspended-by-
6. Good ol’ fashioned witchcraft
Leave all that silly Secret Circle stuff at the door – these witches are not glamorous CW teenagers making googly eyes at each other. The Sanderson sisters are bad ass and old school, getting down n’ dirty with the craft. Spellbooks made from human skin, black flame candles, dead man’s toes, broomsticks and cemeteries… Let’s get a little substance and moxie back in our witchcraft, shall we?
5. Carrie Bradshaw who?
Most people these days know Sarah Jessica Parker from her Sex and the City stint, but before that, she was the ditziest and sexiest of the Sanderson sisters, flitting about behind Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy and stealing almost every scene just by being silly and awesomely moronic. Oh, yeah – she also sings. And it’s kind of lovely.
4. Unexpected humor
Here’s where Hocus Pocus gets me every time. The cast and crew who made this film were obviously having fun with it, and whether it was written into the script or came from improv, there are tons of unexpected places where their quirky sense of humor crops up. Like the hapless bullies. Like the fake cop. But my favorite are Max’s and Dani’s parents, who coolly deliver some of the best (in my opinion) exchanges in the movie.
3. Best talking animal since Falcor
Maybe he’s not a flying luck dragon, but Binx, the 18th century boy cursed into the form of an immortal black cat, is pretty much the coolest talking animal that the ’90s ever produced. He’s brave, he’s capable, he’s snarky, and he actually goes through an emotional arc over the course of the plot. For real – this movie cares about thetalking cat’s character development.
2. A fabulous musical number
It’s not like this is the first non-musical movie that has inserted a random musical number (She’s All That, anyone?), but this movie succeeds where so many others just make you want to shake your head. Part of this is because they actually provide a reason for it being there. Part of this is because the only three doing choreographed dancing are the witchy 300-year-old sisters who are using it to cast a spell. But the main reason why they pull this off brings me to my number one…
1. Bette. Midler. Period.
First Wives Club maybe wasn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you didn’t bawl over Beaches. But there’s no denying that Bette Midler has brassy star power that she uses to anchor this movie. She absolutely goes to the mattresses, willing to be powerful, silly, funny and exasperated in just about every scene. And that voice. She’ll knock you straight over.
Watching horrors about ghosts and serial killers isn’t the only way to get into the Halloween spirit. Instead, I choose a movie that embraces all the aspects of the holiday – the fun, the funny and the adventurous, as well as the creepy.
-Written by Rebecca Coffindaffer