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October 28, 2013

“It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus!”: The Halloween Movies You Watched as a Kid (And Still Do, Admit It)


I’m sure you 20Somethings recognize that first line from the title. Well, if you don’t, then shame on you! There must have been some point when you were a kid, around Halloween time, when you watched the 1993 movie, Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker. Disney Channel would basically show it religiously when October came, and now you can count on ABC Family to show it repeatedly, too. At 21, I still make an effort to watch this wonderful Halloween classic. You know why? I’ll tell you why! Because a) I’m very nostalgic, b) I’m a kid at heart, c) I’m a nerd! and d) It’s one of the best Halloween movies out there! I can sit here all day and talk about why Hocus Pocus is so great, but unfortunately (fortunately?), I have other movies to get to, so I’ll try to make this short and sweet!

First, Hocus Pocus is simply a fun movie. Watching it now, I still get just as much of a kick out of it as I did when I was a kid. The lines are quotable and apply to daily life, if you think about it. My personal favorite is when Winifred says, “Oh, look, another glorious morning. It makes me sick!” I don’t know about you, readers, but this is basically me every Monday morning. Another quip I always enjoy is when awesome zombie dude, Billy Butcherson, says to Winifred, “Go to hell!” and she snappily replies, “Oh, I’ve been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely!” Boom! If someone says that to you, you have a hilarious comeback! All thanks to Hocus Pocus!

Let’s not forget the characters! Besides the Sanderson sisters, there was Max (played by Omri Katz), and ladies, admit it --- he was a real cutie. Max’s sharp little sis, Dani (Thora Birch), and Max’s crush, Allison (Vinessa Shaw) rounded out an amazing crew. There was also Thackery Binx (cool name!), who got turned into a talking cat by the witch sisters (as a six-year-old, I loved Thackery as a talking cat! Even cooler!). And let’s not forget Max’s bullies from school, Jay and Ernie --- oh, sorry, I mean Ice. In fact, Ice loved his nickname so much that he shaved it on the back of his head! Plus, Ice’s stellar vocabulary included the word “tubular!” --- which is totally tubular. Hocus Pocus is certainly not short on relatable, colorful characters.

Whew, boy, was I wrong about making my Hocus Pocus write-up short and sweet. Sorry, about that, readers! Let’s switch to another Halloween movie I watched way back --- and I’m sure you did, too! Next up: Halloweentown! That 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie (back when Disney Channel ROCKED, and their original movies were the best), about three siblings who find out that their grandmother is a witch who lives in a world of ALL THINGS HALLOWEEN. Raise your hands if when you saw this that you wanted to live in Halloweentown. I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat candy 24/7, have a talking skeleton as a cab driver, and make potions and cast spells and fly brooms? It seems like paradise! Well, my bite-sized self certainly thought so. There was, of course, one minor problem: Kalabar. Kalabar was scary, guys. Talk about the creepiest mayor EVER. I still have nightmares about this face (and only click if you’re feeling brave!). Like Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown was an exciting movie --- full of adventure and fright --- and it’s still as equally fun to watch now as it was when I was a kid.

Maybe it’s time to talk about Halloween movies we watch now, or as we grew older. I’m not a very big horror movie fan by any means, but Halloween is the only time I make an exception. Because how could I not? As we all know, the Halloween movies we watch now are over-the-top gory, bloody, graphic --- and thrilling. The total opposite of what we watched as kids. One of my favorite horror movies is The Blair Witch Project (1999). Blair Witch is more of a psychological thriller, which I prefer to all the goriness, like in the Saw movies. I think it’s safe to say that The Blair Witch Project is the godfather of hand-held camera, or ‘found footage,’ movies; it’s the one that started them all (just look at the recent success of the Paranormal Activity movies). At the time, Blair Witch was marketed brilliantly: The directors made a faux documentary of the three filmmaker students, who disappeared in a Maine woods when they were filming a project about the fictional-but-not “Blair Witch.” People actually believed this was a true story when it came out! When I first saw this movie as a teen, I could totally see why. That one scene --- where they are camped in the dead of night, and they hear twigs snapping and popping sounds, but the viewer can’t see a thing --- freaked me out!

I’m also a huge fan of Wes Craven’s Scream trilogy (although I personally disregard the third movie). The Scream movies offer the classic cat-and-mouse chase, with the right amount of thrilling and gory moments, as well as key comedic elements. The beginning of the first Scream movie --- when Drew Barrymore’s on the phone with Ghostface (the killer, and spoiler alert for all of you who time-traveled here from 1995) --- is a heart-pounding moment, and a tense scene that sucks you right in. And only last year I got into Sam Raimi’s cult classic horror trilogy, The Evil Dead series. The Evil Dead trilogy is probably the trippiest of all the horror movies I’ve ever seen, but then again, you can’t go wrong with Bruce Campell, the undisputed King of Horror, with a chainsaw hand.

The Halloween movies we watch now as young and young-ish adults definitely deliver the scares, the chills and those scenes that make us jump out of our seats when we least expect it. They can be fun and campy (like Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, a great movie), totally ridiculous (all the Final Destination movies) or just plain terrifying (The Shining says it all). But the Halloween movies we watched as kids are timeless; they simply never get old. Plus, they bring back so many memories of Halloweens past, when heaven (or hell, if you ask Winifred) was cuddling on the couch with a big bowl of chocolate and candy corn and laughing at your favorite Halloween films. When I watch movies like Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, or even The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice, I get a rush of nostalgia, and these kids’ movies --- corny as they may be --- are still one of the best parts of Halloween.

And now I leave you 20Something readers with the adventures of Jay and Ernie, a.k.a. Ice, from Hocus Pocus. Enjoy! 

I hope everyone has a spooky and fun Halloween!