“Hocus Pocus 2” fails to deliver the same magic as the original


Alamy Stock Photo

Managing Editor, Laken Kincaid, covers the new Disney movie “Hocus Pocus 2.”

Laken Kincaid, Managing Editor


As a past assistant manager of Spirit Halloween and a haunted trail worker, I can confidently say I am a spooky season buff. Honestly, I probably did not even need to start this review with my own qualifier as I keep out skeleton decorations year round and have a horror movie sticker on the very laptop I write this on. Those that know me best know that Halloween is – just like Facebook from middle-aged southern women – a lifestyle for me.

This probably stems from spending my childhood engulfed in ghostly films and TV shows. My favorite movie of all time is “My Babysitter’s a Vampire” which premiered on Disney Channel in 2011. I also am a fan of classics like the “Halloweentown” saga and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which take over the air as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Oct. 1. However, one movie that dominates the Halloween media sphere is the 1993 blockbuster hit “Hocus Pocus,” often receiving a 24 hour marathon on networks like ABC and CBS.

This spooky season figurehead follows the classic story of grumpy teenager Max and his annoyingly charming sister, Dani. To impress the beautiful Allison, Max lights a black flame candle which revives three witches named Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson from 1693 Salem Witch Trials. The coven terrorizes the town trying to save their lives by “sucking the lives out of little children” lest they perish at sunrise. Aided by a cursed, talking feline named Thackery Binx and a pilgrim zombie named Billy Butcherson, they eventually save the day by putting an end to the witches and setting Thackery’s soul free so that he can reunite with his lost sister, Emily. 

To be fair, I probably stocked hundreds of pieces of “Hocus Pocus” merchandise during my tenure at Spirit and probably watched the movie well over a dozen times over various Octobers in life. I know it is easy to claim that “Hocus Pocus” is a staple of your annual spooky routine, but it is difficult not to enjoy the original movie. Even if you hate it, you can’t deny the influence it has on Halloween culture. 

However, I do not predict that the long awaited “Hocus Pocus” sequel will have the same influence as its predecessor. I had restrained hopes for the film but I knew it would never do justice to the original, especially since it has been 29 years since its release. Sequels tend to fall flat when they are trying to continue a legacy that, honestly, should have been respected as is.

The three witches in the original “Hocus Pocus.” (Alamy Stock)

The introduction of the new movie starts with the past of the aforementioned Sanderson Sisters, showing how they were originally excommunicated from their village. Albeit my first inclination that this movie would be a bust was that the Reverend looked like the man from the “Berries and Cream” meme so I got a little distracted. The initial conflict also felt rather juvenile since the rest of the Sandersons’ plot hinges on a spider making the Reverend anxious; this is only exacerbated when you look at the original’s opening which consisted of a legitimate witch trial and execution.

After we see the past of our antagonists and we are introduced to a new, maternal character, we visit the present where quirky teen Becca (who tries very hard to be the reincarnation of Max from the first movie) and her friend, Izzy, are navigating the treacherous world of high school in 2022. This includes a conflict with their friend, Cassie, who seems to be sacrificing puppy love for legitimate friendships. This plot point later feels benign and honestly dropped by the writers so it is easily forgotten about later. 

The teens then buy a strange candle from their local spirituality shop run by a witch wannabe called Gilbert. The wick is lit later that night at Becca’s birthday “ritual” and it brings back the Sanderson Sisters. Maybe this is my own misunderstanding, but I felt that the candle gimmick was a lazy attempt to pay homage to the original film. I understand that Gilbert created the candle from the leftover wax and he could not light it, but it all felt like a cop out for the plot that could have been flushed out more.

Nevertheless, when the Sandersons rose from the ground, I had chills. However, their opening musical number felt extremely forced. After the flash mob, Becca attempts to trick the sisters by taking them to a mystical drug store where they are enthralled with modern technology, just like in the first movie. Eventually, a wild goose chase ensues where the witches demand the blood of the mayor (a descendant of the Reverend) among other things, like Billy Butcherson’s head. I am glad that Billy, my favorite character, made a resurgence in this movie but I wish his silent persona from the original would have stayed intact. 

During their hunt, the witches cast a spell on the town at the carnival to the tune of Blondie’s “One Way Or Another.” This was my favorite part of the movie, mostly because I adored the choreography from the townsfolk. It did justice to Winifred’s original rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” from 1993.

In the end, there is a square off between the teens and the witches which results in a redemption arc for Winifred’s infamous spell book. I would have much preferred to see either Sarah or Mary’s character take this approach, but they instead get Thanos snapped and turned to sparkly dust. Mary’s final cry of “please don’t forget us” would have been the emotional nail in the coffin for me if I wasn’t distracted by the fact that Becca was now attached to a book, described as being “bound in human skin” and the “unholy record of sorcery and nothing good can from it.” Winifred then has a “come to Jesus” moment where she sacrifices herself to join her sisters in the afterlife, officially ending the Sanderson legacy and the film. 

There are quite a bit of pitfalls with this movie. For me, the special effects took away from the story, overwriting the rather minimal effects used in 1993. From eyes glowing purple to the full moon staying in one place throughout the entire movie, the visuals were lacking. Also as a side note, there can only be a full moon every 19 years and one of those years is not 2022. The timing was also very poor. I would have loved an additional ten minutes to get to know Becca, Izzy (whose name I forgot right after the movie ended) and even Cassie. With the time I am given to get to know their stories, I don’t feel compelled to care when their lives are in danger –  they feel like total strangers. I also do not think the Sandersons needed to be redeemed; they are the kind of antagonists you love regardless of their moral compass. Plot holes like the mayor buying an apple in a crowded line when the townsfolk are tracking him also made it a difficult watch.

Sequels tend to fall flat when they are trying to continue a legacy that, honestly, should have been respected as is.

There are a few things the movie does well. The cinematography and camera work were overall well done. The implementation of modern spirituality via crystals and Angelica Leaves was a nice touch. The queer representation was also done well, but I am also a die hard fan of the art of drag and, specifically, Ginger Minj. The humor was also on point, from the Walgreens scene to the recurring Roomba bit, and the buddy cop relationship between Gilbert and Billy.

I think with the mother witch cameo in the ending scene, Disney may shoot for a “Hocus Pocus 3.” However, I think this movie shows how dumb of a move that would be. The first film was a perfect open and shut story that should not have been disrupted. It is like reawakening Billy after all he wanted to do was sleep. Personally, I think I will put “Hocus Pocus 2” to the side for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the original plot – a film that should have been left to rest.