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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hocus Pocus has lasting Halloween appeal for kids (and adults). It involves a plot to suck the life force out of children; one little girl dies that way. A couple of high school bullies harass a male classmate in a graveyard, asking him for "smokes" and "hash" and finally stealing his shoes. There are a few mild sexual references, such as a high school boy hugging his pillow and murmuring, "Oh, Allison, you're so soft," as well as some frisky flirting from one of the witches. The main character is teased about being a virgin. The body of an "unfaithful lover" rises from the grave. Items that play key roles in the story are a book bound in human skin and a candle made from the fat of a hanged man. Words including "damn" are used infrequently. A tale is told about the devil, and there are various gross-out moments. But it's important to note that all of the above is done in the playful, spooky spirit of Halloween.
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What's the story?
Three hundred years ago in Salem, Mass., three witches murdered a little girl and cursed her older brother, Thackery, turning him into an immortal cat. The witches, better known as the Sanderson Sisters, are hanged for the crime, but just before their sentence is carried out, Winnie Sanderson (Bette Midler), casts a spell to bring them back to life on a future Halloween night. When present-day high schooler Max lights a bewitched candle, he unwittingly performs the exact act that will bring the sisters back to life. With the help of Thackery, Max and his friends do their best to outwit, outrun, and outlast the witches in HOCUS POCUS.
Is it any good?
This perennial Halloween favorite is full of silly moments. Some of the best scenes in Hocus Pocus involve the Sanderson Sisters -- Winnie, Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) -- walking through Salem on Halloween night, encountering costumed children. They perform "I Put a Spell on You" at a dance and mistake a man dressed as the devil for the real thing and call him their "master." There are plot holes, and a lot of the film is predictable, but it's good Halloween fun nonetheless.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about scary stories, and parents can share their memories of Halloween. What's your all-time favorite costume? How do you want to dress up this year?
If kids are at all spooked by Hocus Pocus, families can talk about why. What scared you? Do you think it was meant to be scary? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Depending on kids' age, they may be interested in learning about the Salem witch trials.
- In theaters: July 16, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: June 4, 2002
- Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thora Birch
- Director: Kenny Ortega
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Holidays, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for some scary sequences, and for language.
- Last updated: September 10, 2020
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