I’ve already been in the closet once, and I refuse to go back, so I’ll just say it: I’m coming out as a Person Who’s Never Seen Hocus Pocus. I’m tired of hiding and sick of grown adults shouting in my face, “How have you NOT seen Hocus Pocus? It’s, like, the best movie EVER!” But is it really? I set out to investigate.
My pre-viewing impression of the cult classic Halloween movie was a hodge podge of things I made up or gleaned from Gay Twitter: It’s about three witches—the soprano from Sister Act, cursed Carrie Bradshaw, and Bette Midler—called the Sanderson sisters. The witch sisters are supposedly evil, and they prey on children or something. I imagined them as the Grinches of Halloween, hellbent on ruining the holiday for children, who are all like, “We have to save Halloween. We have to take October 31st back from the witches!”
As I settled in to watch Hocus Pocus for the first time, ready to dig my fingers into the tie-dye shirts and Jonathan Taylor Thomas haircuts of the 90s, I realized that Kenny Ortega—the Disney juggernaut behind the High School Musical franchise—directed this movie, which only made me more excited to watch it. But while I hoped that Hocus Pocus would be less Grinch-like and more teen musical heaven, it felt more like an unsatisfying amalgamation of the two – there was not nearly enough singing, and I sympathized way more with the villains than the heroes.
During the opening scene, I wondered: Why is this set in the 17th century instead of the 90s, and who are all these men? My ruffled feathers were quickly smoothed when the witches turned the man into a cat, which is tight. All men should be cats. My next brilliant thought was upon seeing Thora Birch: “Oh, the girl from Now & Then. That’s also tight.” I found the movie’s bully characters, Ice and Jay, fascinating and extremely relatable. Jay looked like a hot lesbian with his long blonde locks and leather jacket, and Ice had a darkness inside him that I both rejected and identified with—I very much wanted to hang with Ice and Leather Boy and found it a shame that our protagonist Max was such a lame virgin in comparison. (Speaking of which, isn’t it bonkers that a children’s movie in the ‘90s made virginity both a major plot point and a recurring joke? I mean, it’s fucking hilarious.)
Pretty soon into Hocus Pocus, I realized that I was in love with cursed Carrie Bradshaw. As Sarah Sanderson, Sarah Jessica Parker looks like Khaleesi without makeup or dragons. When she said, “My lucky rat tail! Just where I left it…”—it was an important moment in lesbian representation, and I felt that. When Max the Lame Virgin took the Sanderson sisters’ book, leaving Sarah distraught, I found myself wanting to make her feel better. Let my Dark Queen have her book and her rat tail and her spider snacks!
The most obvious appeal of Hocus Pocus is that Sarah and her sisters are essentially a girl group. They chant in unison and execute light choreography, swaying in synchronicity, and even perform a musical number—of course gay people love this movie! Not knowing that the Sanderson Sisters sing and dance in the movie, their performance of “I Put A Spell On You” knocked my fucking socks off.
Musical numbers aside, my favorite scene was probably when the Sanderson sisters formed a “calming circle.” I’ve never heard of a “calming circle,” but immediately knew that I needed to start forming them with my friends—and urgently. The President of the United States called a woman “Horseface?” Time to form a calming circle. Unyielding existential dread? Time to form a calming circle. Continuously having to exist in a body? Time to form a fucking calming circle!!
In fact, the Sanderson sisters are my role models—why are they supposed to be the villains of this movie? In what world are witches the true antagonists? I can’t believe people treat Hocus Pocus like it’s the Citizen Kane of witch cinema (which it’s not—Mary Kate and Ashley’s Double, Double, Toil and Trouble is), when witches are essentially the apex of cool .
Though I found Hocus Pocus enjoyable, I believe that everyone else is convinced it’s great because they loved it as kids. The movie was a Halloween snacc, but I was hoping for a full on trick-or-treat candy haul. So lay off, former theater kids and fellow gays – I’ve finally seen Hocus Pocus, and I’ve got notes: Give me more spooky girl group singing and hair-ography and less anti-witch, heterosexual propaganda put forth by a big virgin – then maybe we can talk.