What started out as a Disney Channel Original Movie would be viewed by executives as a goldmine and turned into a theatrical release that is now shown on ABC Family’s Thirteen Nights of Halloween every single year.
Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are the Sanderson Sisters (Winifred, Mary, and Sarah specifically) and are finally revealed to be witches who must eat children every once in a while to maintain their power and beauty. Unfortunately, after kidnapping Emily Binx one year her brother Thackery (Sean Murray of NCIS fame) refuses to let them have her and goes to save her. But while he is too late to save his sister his sacrifice is what leads the sisters to being hanged by the townspeople. Of course, since they’re actual witches, they cast a spell that prophesies a virgin lighting a candle that resurrects them at some point in the future.
Rather than burn the house down, no doubt because they might have a virgin do it of course, the house is left standing in Salem, Massachusetts as a museum commemorating the Salem Witch Trials. Smart. Thackery (Voiced by Jason Marsden) sits over the house for all time, having been cursed into the form of a black cat and unable to die and rejoin his sister in heaven. One day, the Dennison Family move to Salem Dave, the dad (Charles Rocket) and Jenny, the mom (Stephanie Faracy) are hoping that getting away from Los Angeles will do something for their teenaged son Max (Omri Katz) and their young daughter Dani (Thora Birch). Because that always works out so well.
Its Halloween in Salem and as Max finds himself crushing hard on Allison (Vinessa Shaw) in class and, after randomly accidentally ending up in her house while taking his sister trick or treating, he tries to impress her with his nonbelief in the Sanderson Sister myth. Funnily enough, from a Disney film, Max is revealed to be a virgin after lighting the candle and resurrecting the three witches who now must complete their goal or be left for dead for real this time. Hocus Pocus is a Halloween-theme movie and it takes great pleasure in this aspect of itself. With an ensemble cast consisting of three actresses most everyone knows and a few names who would go on to do important things, this film was an instant cult classic.
One other standout cast member who shows up partway through the film is the undead Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones). As Winifred’s ex-lover, caught in a tryst with Sarah of course, his death and subsequent loyalty to Winifred play out as one would expect.
The movie takes jabs at Christianity, somewhat subtly, and it truly plays up the belief that witches are servants of the devil for all that it is worth. Because it’s a comedy, it has the ability to do so and still take itself seriously when it needs to, and while it’s a children’s film it has elements of horror that are surprising for a children’s film, as well as a Disney film.