A not so spellbinding sequel

Disney’s Hocus Pocus revival takes an odd turn for the worst.


photo courtesy of Disney+

Released Sept. 30 on Disney+, “Hocus Pocus 2” was enjoyed by audiences across the globe, after anticipating its revival for more than 30 years.

Quinn Burton, Editor-in-Chief

In the magical world of “Hocus Pocus,”resurrections, evil curses, and wickedness take over the town of Salem on one spooktacular Halloween night. 

After nearly 30 years, actresses Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy have returned to reprise their iconic roles as Winifred, Sarah and Mary Sanderson in “Hocus Pocus 2.” 

Similar to the original, the opening scene sets the tone of the film as an eerie black crow soars across the town of Salem. In a flashback to 1653, we see Reverend Trask (Tony Hale) exile the Sanderson sisters after the eldest of the three, Winifred, refuses to marry a local village boy. The sisters flee into the forbidden forest where they hope to find refuge; however, it would be an all-powerful witch and a magical spell book that they would encounter on their journey. 

While the prequel-style story-telling is effective in providing background on the Sanderson sisters, it lacked real relevance to the rest of the plot, as the film’s primary focus is the friendship of the main characters: Becca, Izzy, and Cassie. This scene, like many to follow, was a disappointing and ineffective component of the storyline. 

Fast-forwarding to present-day Salem, Becca and Izzy return to the forbidden forest in an attempt to carry out their annual Halloween ritual; however, all goes wrong when the black flame candle is ignited resurrecting the witches after their 29 years of solitude. I knew it was only a matter of time after Becca and Izzy’s incantation before we would finally be seeing the faces of the Sanderson sisters on our screen once again. As the full moon shined and the gray fog rumbled, I was brought back to that feeling of nostalgia that the first film gave me so many years ago. Watching the witches transform from shadows into their full form brought a whole new level of excitement to my viewing experience, as I was especially captivated by the consistency between the witches’ appearances in both of the films. 

Knowing the 29-year gap between this film and the original, I was thoroughly shocked that the characters looked almost the exact same. The makeup and hair department exceeded my expectations at reprising the characters in their original form; down to Winifred’s prosthetic buck teeth, Sarah’s makeup, and  Mary’s tornado-shaped wig. It seemed almost as though they shot this movie seconds after its first release. 

I have to say although they did a fantastic job at reprising the appearance of the characters, there was a strong disconnect between the personalities and actions of the witches in the first film and this one. As seen in the scene where the witches are brought back to life, they instantly break out into song and dance. I vividly remember being thoroughly confused while watching this scene and thinking to myself “Oh no. It’s a musical.”   I’m not saying I hate musicals, but we hadn’t seen this from the characters from the first film so why all of a sudden are getting it now? And the three musical sequences included in the film were fairly undeveloped and felt as if they were cut short, which I’m glad they were because watching the three witches sing and dance at their age was like watching a performance by the Golden Girls. 

However, I have to say this film would have been nothing without those three witches. Their nostalgia is truly what carried the film. I think it takes a very special skill to find three actors that have the chemistry that the three witches have. In the original film, it was evident. But, 29 years later, it is like nothing had changed and no time had passed. Their chemistry is what made the film actually bearable. 

During the climax of the film, the Sanderson sisters return to Salem, and it’s only a matter of time before they are free to wreak havoc on all of its inhabitants and get revenge on the mayor, Jefry Traske (Tony Hale), the descendant of the reverend who banished them all those years ago. And according to the spell book, all it takes is the head of a past lover, a petrified spider, and the blood of a witch’s enemy to become the most powerful being of all. 

I’d have to say the plot is definitely outlandish; however, in the eyes of a kid, this film is quite magical.  I could tell just after a few minutes in, the writers and directors’ main motive for the film was to gather a new audience of young viewers, who didn’t experience the original film like past generations. Although, I wish they had directed it towards us, the people who came into the sequel thinking they’d be taken along a nostalgic journey, including references to the original film. What’s missing is original director Kenny Ortega’s rhythm; the teenagers and the talking cat from “Hocus Pocus” may have been annoying, but at least the picture skipped along so that for every dud joke we got a rebuttal that was fairly funny. New director Anne Fletcher isn’t taking any chances: she’s after the mass audience, wanting everyone to be in on every throwback joke, which makes the movie too nice. 

In the final minutes of the film, we see Winnie cast the spell and become all-powerful, but it costs her her sisters. In an emotional turn of events, we see a vulnerable side to Winnie as she breaks down without her coven. She then begs Becca and her friends to reverse the spell so she can rejoice with her sisters and live happily ever after. Winnie transfers her powers to Becca, Izzy, and Cassie in order to reverse the spell, and we sadly see the witches turn to dust. 

Sisterhood takes on a greater significance at the film’s conclusion, as Winifred, Sarah and Mary remind viewers that even the wickedest of witches need someone whom they can depend upon. Despite the wild turn of events exhibited throughout the film core, the ending truly brought it all together. After growing up with this movie for so long, it truly invokes so much emotion when I think about this possibly being the last time I see them on my screen. 

Unfortunately, this film falls under the narrative that the original is better than the sequel. I will always look forward to watching the original “Hocus Pocus” movie during the Halloween season, but also anytime I’m looking for something to find comfort in; however, I cannot say the same for this film.  Sadly, the nostalgia factor has succumbed to the unavoidable lack of comedy and acting.  What was originally a Halloween cult classic has turned into a tragic fiasco.