An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
To be honest I wasn’t going to review Hocus Pocus or Hocus Pocus 2 until I heard about that Texas mother who said Hocus Pocus 2 will “unleash hell”. 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 2022 sequel Hocus Pocus 2
Hocus Pocus 2 is the long-awaited sequel to Hocus Pocus which debuted in 1993, you can read our review of the original here. Hocus Pocus (1993) Explained
29 years after the Sanderson sisters died for a second time, they are accidentally revived once again and set out to become the most powerful witches to ever live.
Is it Scary?
The film opens as we watch a crow soaring through the sky and flying past a small town in Salem in 1653. A sixteen-year-old Winifred Sanderson angrily rushes home and tells her sisters, Sarah and Mary, that she refuses to marry the teen that Reverend Traske has arranged for her to marry.
Reverend Traske (played by Tony Hale) and a mob show up outside the girls’ home and demand Winifred obeys the church by marrying John Pritchett. Winifred says no and says she wants to marry Billy Butcherson since they shared a kiss at the graveyard. Damn Billy, you couldn’t have chosen a less creepy place?
Traske banishes Winifred from Salem and says Sarah and Mary will be given to another family. As the girls are dragged out of the house, Winifred’s spider lands on Traske and after he notices it, he freaks out causing chaos.
The girls reunite and run off to the Forbidden Woods… spoOoOoky.
The girls hear a woman singing a song about taking children and Sarah becomes entranced but Winifred pulls her back. The crow from the start of the movie appears and transforms into a witch (played by Hannah Waddingham). Her dress has a huge eye in the center so I’m going to call her the Illuminati Witch since she doesn’t get a name besides ‘Witch Mother’.
She attempts to give Sarah a potion but Winifred saves her. Illuminati Witch grabs Winifred to attack but notices something special about her. She tells the girls about witches and gives them a spell book.
Winifred finds a spell called ‘Magica Maxima’ which makes a witch all-powerful but, the Illumi-Witch warns them not to use it as it dooms the witch casting it and the book doesn’t like it anyway. Winifred promises to never cast it and I guarantee someone is going to cast it in this movie.
Illumi-Witch says the girls are lucky to have each other and insinuates that people have killed her coven before she disappears. That night the girls use the spell book to cause lighting to burn down Traske’s home and we cut to the title card.
Cut to present-day Salem and we see that crow from the start pass by the town again. We meet our main characters (besides the witches) Izzy (played by Belissa Escobedo), Becca (played by Whitney Peak), and Cassie (played by Lilia Buckingham).
There’s immediate tension between Cassie and the other two when she asks what they’ll be doing that night as it’s Becca’s birthday. Becca says “The same thing they do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!” – oh wait she actually says they’ll be doing birthday rituals and scary movie marathons which is less exciting.
Cassie’s dumb boyfriend, Mike (played by Froy Gutierrez) runs up and after he and Cassie leave, we learn Cassie hasn’t hung out with Becca or Izzy in the last four months. In class, Becca is about to invite Cassie to the birthday ritual, that the three have been doing since they were 5, but Mike walks in and thinks they’re talking about the party Cassie is having that night.
Cassie says she wanted to talk to Becca and Izzy first before Mike said anything but Becca says there’s nothing to talk about- draaamaaa. We also learn that Becca’s dad doesn’t know about the party so I’m sure that’ll be a plot point later.
Mike then asks if Becca and Izzy are going to be doing “witchy stuff” in the woods and Becca says “it’s not witch stuff” but wood rituals sure do sound like witch stuff to me. During a pop quiz, Becca whispers vegan foods to Mike who mistakes it for a spell and flips out causing them both to be sent to the principal’s office.
After school Becca and Izzy pass by the town’s festival and they bump into the candy apple-obsessed mayor who is Cassie’s dad. He’s also a decedent of Reverend Traske, so he’s played by Tony Hale as well, but this Traske is referred to by the girls as the nicest man alive.
The girls then head to the Sanderson house which is now a magic shop run by Gilbert the Great (played by Sam Richardson).
Gilbert entertains a group of children by reciting the events of the first movie and he reveals he has the Witch book locked up in a display case. After his performance which includes a kid freaking out about witches, we see that Gilbert, Becca, and Izzy are actually friends.
He takes them to the back and gives Becca a special candle on the house for their birthday ritual. Izzy also grabs some ‘Angelica leaves’ that Gilbert says are used to break curses. The girls head to the ‘Forbidden Woods’ to perform their ritual using Gilbert’s special candle.
After lighting the candle, the girls hear the Taking Children song and everything gets strangely quiet. The ground shakes and we see the candle is actually a black flame candle which means the Sanderson sisters (Kathy Najimy as Mary, Bette Midler as Winifred, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah) are back!
And… they immediately break into a choreographed song and dance. The girls are hiding, the witches haven’t seen them, so the question is, who the hell are they performing for?
Izzy and Becca give away their position when they scream and they high-tail it out of there. As they run Izzy asks ‘who are they performing for?’ which means I have the same observational skills as a high school teenager and that’s depressing. There’s a jump scare when Sarah appears in front of them yelling “you!”.
As the witches surround them the girls pretend to be witches in their forties who only look young because they eat children’s souls consumed through lotions and serums. The witches ask to be taken to these ‘health and beauty stores’ to get their hands on some children’s souls.
Cut to everyone outside of Walgreens heading inside to the beauty section. The witches start eating facemasks and drinking lotion, gross. While they’re distracted by some teens in Sanderson witch costumes, Becca sends Izzy to search for salt as Gilbert mentioned once that it protects against witches.
The witches catch a glimpse of themselves in the store’s security mirrors and become incensed the lotions aren’t working. After threatening a worker, he informs them that there are no souls in the lotion and the witches chase after Becca.
Finding Izzy, Becca lays down some salt and doesn’t notice a blue glow as she pours. Winifred catches up and shoots some lightning at her but it bounces back to everyone’s surprise.
In the confusion, Becca and Izzy run off and the witches decide to find their spell book to brew their immortality potion. Unable to find more than one broom, Sarah is forced to use a Swiffer, and Mary is forced to use two Roombas to fly.
Meanwhile, the girls storm into Gilbert’s magic shop and Izzy demands he tell them where he got the candle. Becca runs to the book saying they need to move it before the witches get their hands on it and screams when she sees its eye moving around. Instead of being surprised, Gilbert is way too happy about the book waking up.
He then reveals he purposely tricked Becca and Izzy into lighting the black flame candle in hopes it brought back the Sanderson sisters. Apparently, Gilbert thought the witches were just misunderstood and weren’t actually evil, a stance that a lot of weird people tend to have these days after watching another serial killer documentary on Netflix.
The witches arrive and Gilbert introduces himself as their biggest fan as he gives them their book. Mary finds Becca and Izzy and Winifred uses some magic to create a basement dungeon to throw them into Gilbert’s confusion.
After throwing them in the basement, Winifred uses magic to seal the entrance and remove the ladder out. Gilbert assumes there’s been a misunderstanding and then reveals he saw the witches back in 1993. We flashback to the events of the first movie and we see a young Gilbert hiding out in the cemetery witnessing the witches explode.
The witches learn that a descendent of Reverend Traske is now the mayor and, tired of always losing or dying, Winifred decides it’s time to cast the Magica Maxima spell. After struggling with the book, she finally gets it to open to the recipe and discovers one of the ingredients is the blood of an enemy.
Winifred casts a spell on Gilbert tying his life force to an hourglass, forcing him to gather the ingredients for the spell within a certain time or he dies. Meanwhile, the witches will go after Traske to get some blood.
After Gilbert leaves, Winifred places the spell book on the bookshelf for safe keeping and the witches head out. In the basement, Becca video calls Cassie but turns out the magic spell prevents Cassie from seeing them. Izzy then remembers she still has the Angelica leaves and suggests using them to break Winifred’s spell.
At the cemetery, one of the ingredients is the head of a lover so Gilbert goes to dig up Billy Butcherson but discovers he’s alive… unalive… a zombie. Turns out that since the events of the last movie, Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones) has just been asleep in his grave.
After Gilbert freaks out at the sight of a zombie, Billy tells him he’s a good zombie and doesn’t want anything to do with the Sanderson sisters. Gilbert lies, telling him he’s working on a spell to kill Winifred for good and Billy agrees to help. He also finds out that people think he was Winifred’s lover but he clarifies that he never was and only ever kissed her once.
Back in the basement, the girls light the Angelica leaves but nothing happens. They try waving their hands over it and don’t notice a blue glow in Becca’s hand as the staircase leading out reappears. Exiting the basement, Becca calls Mayor Traske and tells him about Cassie’s party, narc.
Becca and Izzy then look for the book. As Becca gets close to finding it, the book starts to sweat. Honestly, this gag caught me off guard and I chortled. After finding the book, they discover the hard way that the witches put a spell on it preventing it from being taken out of the house.
In town, the witches lose a lookalike contest and break into song again. This time placing a curse on the town to lead them to Mayor Traske but since they walk too slow, the witches spread out and search as well. Unbeknownst to them, Traske is now back at the festival after having gone home to punish Cassie for her party.
A short time later, Izzy and Becca arrive at Cassie’s house just as the witches have tricked Mike into leading them to Cassie’s house. The three girls lead the witches to the garage where they trick them and trap them in a circle of salt.
Meanwhile, Gilbert and Billy return to the Sanderson house with all the ingredients and Billy discovers that Gilbert is actually helping Winifred. Billy tries to leave but Gilbert stops him and rips his head off.
Outside of Cassie’s house, Becca and Izzy fill Mike and Cassie on what’s going on. The girls also hash out their issues; Cassie feels like Becca and Izzy shut her out, Becca and Izzy feel like Cassie chose Mike and the Boys over them, and Mike realizes he’s been accidentally making fun of Becca and Izzy by calling them weird, blah blah blah.
Mayor Traske arrives in his car and opens the garage, meeting the Sanderson sisters, thinking they were part of Cassie’s party. Before he can accidentally release them, Cassie stops him and he angrily goes inside. Meanwhile, Mary’s Roombas show up and suck up the salt on the ground releasing the witches.
Thinking the witches are still trapped, the girls try to figure out what to do next but are shocked when Winifred flies by and grabs Cassie. Trying to run after them, the girls finally notice Becca’s hands emitting a blue glow.
In the “Forbidden Woods” Gilbert finishes setting up the ingredients as the witches arrive. Winifred calls upon her book, takes some of Cassie’s blood, throws Gilbert across the forest, and starts the witches start the incantation for Magica Maxima spell.
Becca and Izzy arrive and realizing Becca is a witch they devise a plan for Becca to distract them while Izzy grabs Cassie. The plan interrupts the casting of the spell halfway but Sarah and Mary discover they’ve gained electric shock powers as well.
Sarah and Mary chase after Izzy and Cassie as Winifred continues shocking Becca. Becca calls out to the spell book noting how the book doesn’t want to complete the spell. The book flies over to Becca and Becca books it.
Becca catches up to Izzy and Cassie and they ask the book for help. The book opens up to the Magica Maxima spell, wanting them to read the warning that Winifred chose to not read before. The girls learn that in order for the spell to work, the casting witch has to sacrifice that which she loves the most.
The Sanderson witches arrive and try to attack but Becca creates a shield with her magic. The witches each shock the shield causing it to break down and Izzy realizes that power is meant to be shared so she tells Becca to grab her hand… what? Is this some “friendship is the true superpower” bullshit?
Cassie and Izzy both hold Becca’s hand while they raise their other hand to power up the shield.
The Sanderson witches are unable to break through the shield and Becca taunts them. Winifred decides she doesn’t need the book to finish the spell and the witches head back to the spell site to finish it. Becca, Izzy, and Cassie decide to chase after them to warn them about the consequences before it’s too late.
They’re too late.
The witches celebrate their success as lightning rains down on the town. Becca, Cassie, and Izzy arrive and Becca tells her what the warning said. Winifred dismisses saying she’s not a real witch and doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
But, we see that behind Winifred, Sarah and Mary are starting to disappear. They call out to Winifred confused as to what’s going on and Winifred tears up as her sisters die. Them being the thing she loved most of all.
Winifred tries to use magic to reverse the spell but it doesn’t work. She begs the book to bring back her sisters but the book looks away implying there’s nothing it can do. In a touching scene and a testament to Bette Midler’s acting, you actually feel bad for Winifred despite her being the villain.
The book suddenly opens up and Winifred realizes that Becca is a new witch meaning she can cast a spell. Winifred begs Becca to help bring her sisters back and even agrees to give up her powers as she says, her powers are nothing without her sisters.
Becca agrees to help and casts the “Spell for Reuniting” with Cassie and Izzy’s help. After casting the spell, Winifred looks around, doesn’t see her sisters, and asks what went wrong. Becca then breaks the news, the spell won’t bring her sisters back, it’ll send Winifred to her sisters.
Winifred smiles and as she starts to disappear, she thanks Becca for her help and tells the girls they’re lucky to have each other.
Winifred dies and as the girls wonder if the witches are truly gone, the book sheds a tear. Gilbert and Billy’s body show up prepared to fight the witches but they’re obviously too late. Billy gets his body back just as he starts to disappear. Why didn’t this happen in the last movie?!
Gilbert apologizes to the girls and the girls forgive him… The fuck? He helped resurrect genocidal witches! The film ends as the girls walk off into the night and we see the crow from the start of the movie following them close behind.
Post Credit Scene!
We pan over Gilbert’s shop following his black cat and we see there’s a second Black Flame candle! Sequel baiting!
Hocus Pocus 2 is pretty good. I wouldn’t call it a step down from Hocus Pocus since I feel it does a few things better than it. The humor in Hocus Pocus 2 was definitely better here and there were more sight gags in this one than the previous.
The relationship between the witches weirdly felt more crucial but at the same time, some parts weren’t explored. For example, we got to see how much Winifred cares for her sisters but we also get hints about the tension between Sarah and Winifred yet it only manifests as a joke towards the end.
I think a movie that tries to explore the bond between the three, it would have been more impactful (especially the ending) if one of the main conflicts was between Sarah and Winifred. Instead, we get that conflict with the main teenagers in the movie.
Speaking of which, ehh. I get it, the movie is doing double-duty with making a sequel and trying to pass the baton of ‘witches’ off to a new generation because Disney probably wants to make more sequels and, last I heard, eating children’s souls to stay younger is not a real thing.
But, we barely learn anything besides plot-relevant stuff when it comes to these new teen characters. Don’t get me wrong, the original didn’t do a great job at this either but at least it tried.
We know stuff about Max and Allison that had nothing to do with the movie, in Hocus Pocus 2, we only learn things about Becca, Izzy, and Cassie that are relevant to the story; they did witch rituals, they have strained relationship, Cassie is a descendant of Trask. It’s not a great thing when we learn more about Cassie’s boyfriend Mike than we do about the main characters. (Also Mike was a more entertaining character).
Overall I recommend watching Hocus Pocus 2 especially if you liked Hocus Pocus, it does a good job of being a sequel that provides a fitting conclusion to the Sanderson sisters. It was entertaining, funny at times, and just the right length, but it does suffer from under-characterization of most of the cast.