Hocus Pocus (1993) Explained

An Average Movie-Goer’s Review

Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post

Hocus Pocus Explained Poster

To be honest I wasn’t going to review Hocus Pocus or its sequel until I heard about that Texas mother who said Hocus Pocus will “unleash hell” and if watching a ‘horror’ movie that a parent tells you is dangerous isn’t the spirit of Halloween, I don’t know what is. So here we are.

Today we’re looking at Disney’s 1993 Halloween comedy Hocus Pocus

On Halloween, a pair of teens and an 8-year-old accidentally revive a trio of witches who have until sunrise to steal the life force from children or else they die… again.

The long-awaited sequel to Hocus Pocus, Hocus Pocus 2 was released in 2022 you can read our review here. Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) Explained

Is it Scary?

Not even a little bit. I don’t even think there are any real jump scares. Hocus Pocus is a comedy and doesn’t try for scares. Overall you won’t leave this movie scared unless you’re an overprotective irrational parent and have an extremely ridiculous notion that it can unleash hell.

Detailed Plot:

The film opens in 1693 with a title screen and opening credits as we see the shadow of a witch flying through the air. We pan over to a boy Thackery waking up and finding his sister, Emily, missing. As he calls out to her, we hear someone singing a song in the distance about taking children away so I think I know what happened to Emily.

Seeing purple smoke rising in the distance, Thackery immediately suspects the witches took his sister. He gets confirmation when he sees his sister running into the woods with the witches and he gives chase.

So everyone is fully aware this is a witches house, right?

Thackery sneaks into the house and watches as the three witches tie his sister to a chair and prepare a spell using their cauldron. From left to right the three witches are Sarah (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), Winifred (played by Bette Midler), and Mary (played by Kathy Najimy). 

Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy in Disney's Hocus Pocus 1993
Yep those are witches

The witches finish their spell and are about to feed Emily the concoction but Thackery jumps down from the raptures and just yells out “no!” which feels anti-climatic. He also waited an awfully long time to do something. The witches surround him but he flips the cauldron over onto Sarah and Mary causing them to fall.

Attempting to save Emily he gets zapped by Winifred who I guess has magical zapping powers that she chose to wait to use. Thackery falls to the ground and we see that by the time Thackery anticlimactically jumped down to save his sister, she had already been fed the concoction, so Thackery sucks at the hero thing.

We see that the potion Winifred fed Emily allows the witches to inhale her life force allowing them to become younger. With no one to stop them, the witches do just that, killing Emily and becoming young again.

the witches become younger in Hocus Pocus 1993
I believe this is what’s called a ‘glow up’

As punishment for almost ruining their plans, Winifred calls upon her book, which is alive and has an eye on the front cover, to find the perfect spell. The witches decide on turning Thackery into an immortal black cat and honestly, sign me the hell up for that deal.

After transforming Thackery the witches are interrupted by a mob that has formed outside led by Thackery and Emily’s father. We see that Sarah is an idiot as after Winifred announces that there are no witches in the house, Sarah yells out that they are only sucking the lives out of little children.

Hard cut to the witches preparing to be hanged on the gallows. Winifred yells out a curse stating that during a full moon on Halloween, a virgin will raise them from death. The witches are then hanged and die on the gallows.

We’re literally 12 minutes in and we’ve had a child kidnapping, another damned to eternal punishment, child murder, and finally three hangings. Damn Disney, you used to be scary. 

Cut to 300 years later on Halloween and a teacher is reciting the story of the witches, the Sanderson sisters, to her class when our main character Max (played by Omri Katz) essentially calls it bullshit. We learn that Max’s family just recently moved by L.A to Salem and he’s “too cool” for Halloween, calling it a marking ploy by candy companies.

Our other main character, Allison (played by Vinessa Shaw), corrects him by saying that Halloween is actually rooted in history and gives some sort of correct answer. The whole class claps and cheers at her answer and r/thathappened on Reddit would have had a field day with this story.

It gets worse when Max just gets up, while class is still going on, and gives Allison his number after she just owned him. After school, he even rides his bike to her and apologizes for embarrassing her! This kid’s misplaced confidence is going to get him killed one day.

Omri Katz as Max and Vinessa Shaw as Allison in Hocus Pocus 1993
“Yea, it’s short for Max Power but it’s also because I’m cool to the Max.”

Allison plays off like she’s giving him her number but as she walks away, Max unfolds the paper and sees it’s his own number. On his bike ride home, Max cuts through the cemetery and is stopped by a pair of bullies who are basically Jay and Silent Bob without the silent part. 

This scene raises so many questions that I don’t think this movie is prepared to answer. The bullies, Jay and Ernie Ice, refer to Max as Hollywood and take his shoes.

Jay and Ernie as the bullies in Hocus Pocus 1993
What is even happening right now?

At home, Max yells at his parents for forcing him to move to Salem and after he goes to his room, they presume he was barefoot as a sign of protest… so they’re terrible parents. Max’s 8-year-old sister Dani (played by Thora Birch) surprises Max in his room and forces him to take her trick-or-treating later.

A few hours later the two bump into Jay and Ice because bullies in the early 90s couldn’t rely on Xbox live for their harassment needs, they had to put in the real work. Dani is quick-witted and insults the bullies back which I feel like they should have respected her for it. 

After Max gives them his candy in order for them to leave him and Dani alone, Max flips out on Dani saying she embarrassed him in front of half the guys at school. This random outburst causes Dani to cry and Max to apologize.

The two arrive at a large house that happens to be the home of Allison and her family. Allison tells the two that her mother used to work at the Sanderson museum which had a bunch of stuff on the Sanderson witches. Max has the idiotic idea of breaking into the abandoned museum and, despite Dani’s insistence that they shouldn’t go, Allison agrees to take them.

Max, Allison, and Dani enter the witches home in Hocus Pocus 1993
Who is paying the electric bill?

Searching the place, they spot the black flame candle that is said to bring back the witches if lit by a virgin. Max decides to light the candle with a lighter he found stole from the counter but a black cat (Thackery) jumps on him and stops him.

Max lights the candle anyway because of his deadly confidence and this causes the entire ground to shake and lightbulbs to explode. As all the candles in the house ignite, the door swings open and, as the kids hide, the three witches waltz in.

Mary gets a whiff of children in the house and the witches quickly find Dani who attempts to play it off like she resurrected them. The witches see past the charade and attempt to throw Dani into the cauldron for dinner but Max jumps out of hiding only to quickly get zapped by Winifred.

Allison jumps out of hiding and uses a cast iron skillet to knock out Mary and Dani attacks Winifred and Sarah with a bag of candy. Winifred grabs Dani but Thackery attacks Winifred allowing Dani to grab Max and help him up.

As the kids run out of the house, Max jumps onto the rafters and tells the witches he can summon “the burning rain of death”. Igniting the lighter, which freaks out the witches, he activates the sprinkler system which causes them to lose their minds and hide from what they think is fire rain. 

As Max leaves, Thackery pushes him to the ground and jumps on him. Revealing he can talk, Thackery tells Max to grab the book of spells.

Thackery as a cat makes himself known
“And if you see a can of tuna, grab that too… oh and a pile of strings.”

After the kids run off with the book, Winifred realizes it’s just water and they give chase but they stop when they mistake firefighters for witch hunters. We learn that the witches have to inhale the life from children before sunrise otherwise the spell Winifred casts will kill them. But, the recipe for the potion is in the book and those damn kids have it.

At a nearby cemetery where Thackery has told the kids the witches can’t step in because it’s hallowed ground, he fills them in on the curse. The witches find a loophole and arrive flying in brooms and bring Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones) back to life as a zombie to take the children. Billy Butcherson was Winifred’s boyfriend until she discovered him kissing Sarah, so she killed him… Winifred has no chill.

Billy, who seems over this shit, chases the children but loses his head when Max hits him with a tree branch. Though he’s headless, Billy is still alive. The kids then escape through a crypt that leads to a sewer back into the city.

Billy Butcherson as a zombie played by Doug Jones in Hocus Pocus 1993
Why not just shock them with electricity instead of bringing back the dead? Did Winifred forget she has powers?

Meanwhile, the witches hitch a ride on a bus driven by a very horny bus driver. Along the drive they pass by the kids who exit through a sewer and the bus, now driven by Sarah, unwittingly runs over Thackery. Dani cries but they’re wasted tears since Thackery immediately gets back up, reminding them he can’t die. Again, sign me the hell up for that spell.

Mary smells children and the witches get off the bus but since they don’t understand Halloween, they mistake a guy in a devil costume for their master. While they’re in his house, a couple of children take their brooms. Winifred finally realizes that Halloween has become a fun holiday with candy and parties and continues their pursuit of the book.

Max, Allison, Dani, and Thackery decide to get help from Max’s parents who are at a dance hall but unsurprisingly they don’t believe him. The witches arrive and Max, for some reason, thinks jumping on the stage and announcing to the crowd that a trio of witches has come back to life to kill the children is a smart decision. 

Spoilers: It’s not.

The witches break out into song hiding a spell within a choreographed, well-prepared sing-and-dance number. The kids and cat run but the rest of the crowd becomes entranced and are forced to continue dancing until they die.

Allison has an idea to lead the witches to the high school’s large-enough-for-three-witches kiln oven to burn them alive. The high school I went to had a kiln oven and you couldn’t fit more than 5 pieces of small pottery, let alone a damn witch. Also, this plan works and the witches are burned.

The kids celebrate and as Max invites Thackery to be their pet cat, no one wonders how the witches’ magic is still working if they’re truly dead. Everyone heads to Max’s house where they all take a nap completely ignoring that the parents haven’t shown up yet. Back at the school, the witches come back to life.

Following Max’s scent, the witches instead find Ernie Ice and Jay since Ice is still wearing Max’s shoes. The two call the witches ugly and it doesn’t go well for them.

Unable to remember the recipe for the potion and with only an hour till 6 am, Winifred calls out for her book to make itself known. The book wakes up, meaning it opens its eye, but Max and Allison also wake up so it goes back into pretending it’s asleep. 

Max and Allison decide to open the book to try to find a way to reverse the witches’ spell despite earlier being warned by Thackery to not open the book. As they open the book an orange beam shoots out of it that they can’t see. 

“oh shit, they’re awake, act like a normal alive book!”

Winifred sees it and the witches head to the house on objects they find in the museum’s closet. Winifred rides a broom, Sarah a mop, and Mary a vacuum. After reading that salt can protect people from witches, Max and Allison head downstairs to find some leaving the book, Dani, and Thackery upstairs.

After hearing something upstairs, they run back and find the book is gone but quickly find it in the hands of the witches. After zapping Max, the witches explode out of the house taking Dani, Thackery, and the book.

So Allison and Max are definitely dead after that explosion right?

As the witches head back to their home, Sarah sings an entrancing song that possesses all the children to follow them. If you’re wondering why this doesn’t work on Max or Allison, stop trying to ruin the movie.

Max and Allison arrive at the witches’ home just as they’re about to feed Dani the potion but unlike Thackery, Max actually springs to action before she drinks it. Using a car’s headlights, Max tricks the witches into thinking the sun is coming up and while they don’t feel any pain, the witches react like they are and fall to the ground.

Max knocks over the cauldron, frees Dani, grabs Thackery, and takes his shoes back from Ice but doesn’t free him or Jay from their cages before driving off. Did Max just leave them to be murdered by the witches? Yes.

The witches realized they’ve been tricked but when looking in the tipped-over cauldron Winifred realizes they have enough for one child. Instead of using it on Ice or Jay… or the hundreds of children mindlessly standing outside their home, Winifred decides she wants to use it on Dani.

But can that potion break plot armor?

The witches fly off and Winifred catches up to the kids who are speeding down the road. Max is able to knock her into the trees and they head to the cemetery where Billy knocks Max down.

As Winifred arrives, Billy uses a knife Max has to cut open his stitches and reveal he actually hates the witches. Billy teams up with the kids and they run further into the cemetery. The kids place Dani in a circle of salt as the witches fly in. 

Winifred knocks Billy’s head off and Dani, who was instructed not to leave the circle of salt, decides to leave the circle of salt to get the zombie’s head back. Unsurprisingly she gets grabbed by Winifred who pulls out her vial of potion. Before she can feed it to Dani, Thackery attacks causing her to drop it.

Max catches it and threatens to smash it if she doesn’t release Dani but Winifred threatens to kill Dani if he doesn’t give it back.


Max instead drinks it himself forcing the witches to have to take him. Winifred releases Dani and grabs Max, lifting him up in the air. As Max tries to fight off Winifred, Mary attempts to fly over but Dani, Billy, and Allison grab onto the vacuum’s extension cord holding her back.

Sarah flies over to help Mary and the kids and Billy lets go of the cord launching Mary and Sarah into the air. This distracts Winifred allowing Max to knock her off her broom and the two fall down into the cemetery.

How the hell is the cord that long?!

Winifred grabs Max as the sun starts to rise but since she’s on hallowed ground, she turns to stone. Meanwhile, Sarah and Mary explode from the sun and as Max releases himself from stone-Winnie’s grasp, it also explodes.

With the witches now dead, Billy climbs back into his grave and Thackery’s soul is released and he reunites with his sister. Back at the dance hall, all the parents are released from the curse and exit the building like it was a totally normal thing to happen.

The film ends as we see Ice and Jay still in their cages and the witches’ book opens its eye.


Hocus Pocus is pretty good for what it is. If you go into this movie expecting anything more than a Disney comedy based on Halloween, you’re going to be disappointed. The acting has its highs and lows, the witches; Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy are great throughout.

I think my favorite performance was from Parker as she plays the dim-witted witch to perfection always doing something in the background that shows the witch’s personality. The rest of the cast… ehh. The main teens are alright but don’t hold a candle to the witches.

The dialogue makes sense for the movie and makes the story easy to follow since, again, Disney movie for kids so it’s gotta be simple. Some character choices don’t make sense or are over the top though. Max yelling at Dani and blaming her for embarrassing him was ridiculous (the acting was bad too). Max thinking that telling a room full of adults that the witches came back would work- ridiculous.

Also, Thackery as a cat says he’s been waiting for a virgin to light the candle for 300 years and then doesn’t have a real plan to kill them doesn’t make sense. The characters of Ernie and Jay were more annoying than necessary, they don’t even need to be in the film. You could argue they’re there for comedic effect but the witches are the comedic effect so there’s really no need.

Special effects for the movie were actually not that bad for its time. I recently read that Doug Jones actually had to have moths in his mouth for a scene where Billy removes the stitches around his mouth so that was disgustingly interesting.

Overall I recommend watching Hocus Pocus especially if you’re looking for a movie to watch with your kids or younger relatives. Plus it’s a great palette cleanser after watching Hellraiser.


Stuff to Ignore

Rotten Tomatoes – 39%

Metacritic – 43

Comments are closed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: