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Film / Hocus Pocus

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"I put a spell on you, and now you're mine!"

"On All Hallow's Eve, when the moon is round,
A virgin will summon us from under the ground."
Winifred Sanderson

A 1993 Halloween-themed Disney film "for kids". This was the second film directed by Kenny Ortega, previously known for Newsies (1992) and later recognized for the High School Musical franchise. The movie didn't make waves upon release, but eventually found a renaissance of fandom that has turned it into a seasonal Cult Classic and revitalized interest in the property for Disney.

The film opens in the year 1693. Thackery Binx (a role shared by Sean Murray and Jason Marsden), a teenager living in Salem, Massachusetts, discovers his little sister Emily (Amanda Shepherd) has gone missing. Emily has been lured away to the farm of the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches—consisting of older sister/leader Winifred "Winnie" (Bette Midler), middle sister/tracker Mary (Kathy Najimy), and little sister/siren-like predator Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) — who suck the life-forces of little children to prolong their lives; such is the fate suffered by Emily. Thackery attempts to save her, but the sisters transform him into an immortal black cat. The sisters are soon after captured by the townspeople and hanged. Before her death, Winnie pronounces her death curse, vowing that the trio will have their revenge.

Fast-forward three hundred years. The Dennisons are a California family who have just moved to Salem, bringing along teenage son Max (Omri Katz) and eight-year-old daughter Dani (Thora Birch). On Halloween night, Max takes his sister trick-or-treating and gets to hang with new love interest Allison (Vinessa Shaw). Allison tells him of the legend of the Sanderson sisters and of a supposed way to revive them; skeptic virgin Max ends up resurrecting the diabolical trio. Now the kids and immortal cat Binx have to face the witches throughout the night, with the lives of every kid in Salem at risk.

A surge of re-interest in the movie spurred Disney into promoting it as a seasonal staple for the brand. In 2015, The Magic Kingdom launched a Hocus Pocus themed musical revue as part of Mickey's Not-So Scary Halloween Party: The Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. In it, the Sanderson Sisters use the magic of the Magic Kingdom to return from the grave to throw a wild All Hallow's Eve bash, inviting some of Disney’s greatest villains to join them. While the sisters are Lighter and Softer than their film counterparts by necessity (having infanticidal witches at a Disney Theme Park wouldn't exactly be 'not-so scary'), the show is a loving tribute, complete with a show-stopping rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" for the finale.

A Novelization released in July 2018, titled Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel, containing the novelization of the film and a sequel story. The sequel focuses on Max and Allison's daughter, Poppy, who grew up hearing the family story of the events of the first film (and parents who avoid Halloween as much as possible). Poppy is skeptical of the tale and ends up in the Sanderson house on Halloween, twenty-five years to the day after the film, in an attempt to prove there's nothing to the story.

In 2020, a sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was greenlit, to be executive produced by Adam Shankman (Hairspray) and directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses), releasing on Disney+ on September 30th, 2022.

No relations to the 1994 similarly titled video game. Also unrelated is Kurt Vonnegut's 1990 dramatic novel of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

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  • 555: The phone number Max gives to Allison at school.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Max, Dani, and Allison have to flee the witches and zombie Billy Butcherson by following Thackery into the sewers, which are filled with spiders and mice, which is what Thackery eats like a cat! Very squicky to the trio.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Winifred says "Hello, Salem! My name's Winifred, what's yours?" in a nod to the famous line from Gypsy. Mama Rose says "Hello world, my name is Rose, what's yours?". Midler played Mama Rose in the TV version of the musical later the same year.
    • Mary says to her sister "Winifred, thou art divine". A clear nod to Midler's nickname 'The Divine Miss M'.
    • Max's father Dave telling him to watch his language. Dave is played by Charles Rockett, who was infamous for swearing on Saturday Night Live.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: During Max's run-in with the bullies, when Max doesn't have any cash or cigarettes to give them, "Ice" mockingly asks what he's supposed to do with his afternoon. Max suggests that he learn to breathe through his nose, and Jay starts laughing until "Ice" glares at him.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Zig-Zagged in the Cold Open. While the angry mob is too late to save Emily and Thackery, they do manage to catch and hang the witches. For some reason they don't think to bury the candle that would bring the witches back, and instead their descendants use it as a tourist attraction.
    • The children tried to get help from their parents and the rest of the party-goers. They don't believe them and think it's some kind of Halloween prank.note 
    • They also tried for help from the man they thought was a police officer. (He was only in costume.)
    • In the sequel, it's Zig-Zagged again. Max, Allison and Dani are sent off to Hell before they can even start to help, Jay (now the school principal) is deliberately unhelpful because Max left him and Ernie in the cages, but Poppy and her friends do get help from an adultnote , albeit one that's a ghost.
  • All Part of the Show: What the adult party-goers think of the Sandersons taking over the stage and singing a song to them, to the point they indulge in audience participation and sing too, thus unknowingly enchanting themselves.
  • All Myths Are True: Winifred believes that the man in the devil costume, who she thinks is the actual devil, is married to Medusa
  • All There in the Script: The screenplay has some enlightening dialog that sheds a bit of light of certain things:
    • Winnie's spellbook belongs to (or once belonged) to Satan, and it is valued to the sisters because the information within it can change to be whatever they want whenever they want, making it the ultimate endless evil weapon of ever changing spells.
    • Allison’s ancestor is a good witch named Elizabeth Podbury, which could explain her knowledge of witchcraft. The novelization expands on this: her full name was Elizabeth Sanderson Podbury, and she was the family's White Sheep.
    • If a witch touches salt, it burns her skin. This is why a circle of salt protects against their magic.
    • While the sisters look human, their bodies are essentially their souls being contained in a body made of candle wax.
    • If the witches consume enough children, they'll be immortal.
    • Thackery is not exactly "immortal". While Winnie taunts him that he will live forever, he actually has only nine million lives and will die when he uses them up. At one point, he says that he has used up 321 of them but there "are only so many ways to go".
    • The Sanderson Sisters are actually half-sisters born out of wedlock. According to Allison, Winnie’s father was a warlock, Mary’s was a bloodhound (hence her ability to smell children) and Sarah’s was the village idiot. This was retconned in the sequel.
    • The Dennisons moved to Salem simply because they wanted Max and Dani to grow up in a healthy environment.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Inverted. The witch sisters transform Binx into a black cat For the Evulz. By the time of the main narrative, he's their sworn enemy. However when he attempts to get his father’s attention at the sisters’ hanging, Mr Binx apparently mistakes him for Winifred’s familiar. As mentioned in Animal Motifs below, Mary's more like a dog.
  • Almost Kiss: Max and Allison nearly kiss right when Dani is stolen from their house.
  • Alternate History: If the teacher's lesson at the beginning of the time transition is any indication, the discovery and execution of the Sanderson sisters have altered how the Salem Witch Trials are perceived in hindsight: instead of a gross miscarriage of justice, it became known as an infamous hunting ground for three murderesses who were rumored to be witches.
  • Alto Villainess: Winnie, with the voice of Bette Midler backing her up.
  • Always with You: A freed Thackery tells this to Dani just as he and Emily are about to head to Heaven.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Whereas Winnie is evil and scheming, Sarah and Mary are basically dumb and more or less harmless — until Sarah's Not So Harmless moment. If Winnie wasn't around they probably wouldn't even be villains.
  • An Aesop: The deleted subplot where the Sanderson Sisters drug their victims with candy crows adheres to the maxim: "Don’t take candy from strangers."
  • Animal Motifs: The animal itself is never mentioned, but Mary's appears to be a dog, what with her tendency to bark, her power to smell children, and the way she's always at Winifred's side.
    • Explained in the original script: as it turns out, Mary's father was a bloodhound.
  • Anime Hair: Mary's hair is styled to look like a witch's hat.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Max and Dani have a typical sibling relationship with lots of bickering. He also risks his life for her several times, culminating in when he drinks the potion to make sure the witches can't murder her. Dani is relieved that he's okay at the end after keeping Mary from hurting Max and points out quietly he saved her life. Max smiles and says that's what big brothers do.
  • Badass Normal: The kids fight against witches and zombies without any kind of special power of their own.
  • Batter Up!: Max's defensive weapon of choice is a wooden baseball bat. Unfortunately for him Winifred is a lot stronger than she looks; she bare hands his stick mid-swing, yanking it from his grip to toss it aside like a useless twig.
  • Berserk Button:
    • The minute someone calls Winifred "ugly" or a hag, she starts handing out the Disproportionate Retribution.
    • Ice really doesn't like being called "Ernie."
    • Don't remind Binx the Cat about his failure to save his sister, especially if you're the one who took her life.
  • Beware the Silly Ones:
    • Sarah skips along in a daze, "prattling idiotically" in the words of her elder sister, but her voice can lead children to their deaths.
    • Mary is not much further off. She may be bumbling and comical, but she is the tracker after all and is even implied to be most voracious of the three sisters.
    • Jay and Ice are a nonlethal version. They are rather dumb, but most of their time onscreen consists of them bullying, stealing, destroying Halloween decorations, and generally going out of their way to make other kids miserable.
  • Big Bad: Winifred Sanderson is the clear leader among the sisters.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Thackery Binx and Max are both deeply protective of their little sisters, and Binx projects a lot of his feelings about Emily onto Dani.
    • Dani inverts this, as when Winifred zaps Max with her lightning, she yells at her to leave him alone and smacks her with her trick-or-treat bag.
    • Despite being a Big Sister Bully, Winifred gets a moment of this when she yanks Mary and Sarah after her to avoid the "burning rain of death".
  • Big Eater: Mary Sanderson is clearly implied to be this with children. How else do you think she got so much bigger than her sisters?
  • Big "NO!": Dani screams this when Max drinks the witch's potion so that the trio will take his life and not hers.
  • Black Magic: Mind Control, life-stealing, turning people into cats... Lots of nasty, dark stuff here.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three witches; Sarah is blonde, Mary has dark hair, and Winnie is a redhead.
  • Brainless Beauty: Sarah, the youngest and most attractive of the witch sisters is none too bright. She'd rather "prance around idiotically" as Winfred would put it.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Dani keeps mocking her brother for being a virgin. It's possible she just doesn't know what it means but she does still keep saying it to get a rise out of him. She also mocks her brother's attraction to Allison and to Allison's "yabbos" in particular.
  • Bratty Teenage Son: Max is this in the beginning, but he gets over it.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Inverted. After their original brooms are stolen, the Sanderson Sisters substitute them with present day appliances: Winifred uses a modern broom, Sarah a mop and Mary a vacuum cleaner.
  • Brick Joke: At the beginning of the movie, the two bullies steal Max's sneakers from him; at the climax, when they plead with him to help them after they get locked up by the witches, he refuses, but takes the opportunity to take his sneakers back.
    • In the sequel, the school kiln used to burn the sisters is still broken.
    • When Poppy meets Binx in the sequel, his very first words refer to the Overly-Long Gag of the first one.
      Binx: Hello, Poppy. I'm guessing your dad's no longer a virgin.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The three witches were about to go easy on the two bullies and leave... Until they called them ugly.
  • Burn the Witch!:
    • Averted in a Disney film! The witches are hanged, just like the real "witches" of Salem. (Of course, this is a rare case where the "victims" are truly guilty of witchcraft.)
    • Subverted later. The kids trick them into a walk-in kiln and burn them, figuring that's the way to get rid of a witch. They probably got the idea from Hansel and Gretel rather than the Salem witch trials. The candle's magic keeps them from perishing completely.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Max, whose virginity is repeatedly invoked and commented on.
    • Billy Butcherson easily suffers the most physical abuse of any character, getting his head knocked off on two separate occasions, and his fingers crushed when he's coming out of the sewers and a motorcycle rides over the top of the lid. That's not even going into Winifred poisoning him and sewing his mouth shut so that he can't speak even in death.

  • Card-Carrying Villain:
    • Winnie Sanderson at one point says to her sisters "We are witches, we are evil!" But then, being that they got their powers by selling their souls to Satan, this probably just represents a realistic view of themselves.
    • Also, during "I Put A Spell On You" song:
    Your wretched little lives have all been cursed 'Cause of all the witches working I'm the worst. [...] Ask my sisters.
    (She's vicious!)
  • Call-Back: While in the sequel, neither of them decorate for Halloween for obvious reasons, Allison's specifically stated to avoid fake gravestones because she finds them tasteless "since she had a soft spot for a zombie named Billy she met twenty-five years ago."
  • Cassandra Truth: Played with. Mary smells a child in the prologue and tells Winnie about it. Winnie scoffs and points to the lured Emily as a child. This causes her to miss Thackery.
  • Cats Are Magic: Binx, a teenager who was transformed into a black cat by the Sandersons. He has the ability to speak, and he is effectively immortal.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Sanderson sisters avoid wearing the typical black of witches, each sporting very colorful dresses that correspond to the color of the magical effects associated with them. Winifred is associated with green, Sarah with pink and purple, Mary with red.
  • Company Cross References: One of the background trick-or-treaters is dressed as Mrs. Potts.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • Sarah's primary power - her song about halfway through the movie calls all the children in Salem to the Sanderson sisters' home, and lets the viewers know that she isn't as harmless as she appears to be (up to this point, she played the part of The Ditz and was Winifred's punching bag).
    • You can hear Sarah sing at the beginning of the film as that's how she lures Emily Binx to the Sanderson sisters' cottage and kicks off the plot.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: Parodied: while the Sanderson sisters are in "The Master's" house, Sarah goes to "The Master" and says, "Master, wouldst thou dance with me?" She then makes a tender slow dance with him... until his wife shows up and sees them both dancing, which triggers her Berserk Button.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Sarah tortures the two bullies by force-feeding them Halloween candy. (They were already sick from it in the previous scene.)
  • Credits Pushback: Because of this, the Disney Channel no longer airs The Stinger for the movie.
  • Creepy Cemetery: It relies on elements from the rest of the movie to add the creepiness factor. It's actually a Place of Protection since witches "can't set foot" on hallowed ground.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Winnie tries to remember the life potion's recipe but gets stuck at a dead man's....something. Aforementioned Cuckoolander Sarah abruptly shouts out "Dead man's toe!" but is shushed. As Mary and Winifred continue to try to remember the ingredient, Sarah shrugs and wanders off screen.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Emily Binx is hypnotized, lured to the witches' house, and forced to drink a potion that makes her life force vulnerable. The witches then suck the life out of her with a few inhales, so that she rapidly ages and dies within seconds, all without likely being aware of it. Later on in the movie, the witches prepare to do this to all the children in Salem, with Sarah singing to hypnotize them and then to have all of their lives to feast upon and gain immortality.
  • Curse Escape Clause: An accidental one: Winifred cursed Binx to live forever with his guilt over having been unable to save his sister, but once the witches are finally killed, Binx's sister has been avenged, so he no longer has a reason to feel guilty—and thus the curse is broken, with Binx finally dying but being able to join his sister in the afterlife.
  • Darker and Edgier: For Disney in general. There's a child death in the prologue alone! Any more so, and they'd likely have changed the label to Touchstone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Max and Binx. Winnie has her moments, as well.
  • Death of a Child: The plot is kicked off with the abduction and murder of Emily Binx.
  • Deal with the Devil: The witches made a pact with Satan to get their powers, and still call him "Master".
  • Defiant Captive: Dani, when captured by the witches. Dani tells Winifred directly that she's the ugliest person ever, and that she sold her soul so it doesn't matter how many children she sucks the souls from.
  • Died Happily Ever After:
    • After the witches are defeated, Billy happily goes to his grave. He takes the time to say farewell to the kids, and accept Max's thanks for helping them.
    • Thackery and Emily go to Heaven at the end. Thackery consoles a grieving Dani.
  • Disney Death: Binx revives after being crushed by the bus. In a darkly humorous twist, it only seems this way because the characters (and presumably the audience) forgot that he couldn't die (though it also sets up his death later). When he revives, he shrugs it off like it was nothing and is legitimately surprised that the others were concerned.
    Binx: (as though getting run over by a bus is the most normal thing in the world) "I hate it when that happens! What? I told you, I can't die."
  • Didn't Think This Through: Max lighting the candle might've been stupid, but it's understandable that someone wouldn't believe it. What is unbelievably stupid was Allison not just keeping a book made by the devil, but opening it and trying to use its power herself. She even read that part herself.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Pissing off Winnie usually gets you this.
    • Thackery Binx was already going to have his life sucked out of him for trying to stop the witches from killing his sister, but he makes the mistake of calling Winifred a hag and is instead damned to a Fate Worse than Death in the form of being trapped in the form of a black cat... for all eternity... living with his failure.
    • In the case of Billy Butcherson, Winnie's lover. Winnie poisoned him and sewed his mouth shut after she caught him sporting with Sarah.
  • Distant Prologue: The film starts with the hanging of the Sanderson sisters in 1693 and then fast forwards to 1993, the time of the setting.
  • The Ditz: Sarah, "Amok-amok-amok-amok!" among numerous other examples.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": One of the two bad boys, "Ice", hates being called "Ernie."
  • Do Not Go Gentle: When he drinks the potion so that Winifred has to take his life instead of Dani's, Max proceeds to grapple with Winifred while they're both on top of her broomstick. He may die, but he's not going to sit and wait for her to suck out his youth.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The witches lived in the woods prior to their execution.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Subverted, albeit toned down for a "kid's movie". Sarah really likes to play with men and "boys" and doesn't care if they are unwilling or underage, and it establishes that she is definitely evil. Case in point, she wants hang Thackeray on a hook and play with him after he calls Winifred a hag and gets incapacitated. It's as creepy as it sounds. Later, she leers at Max and offers to be his "friend". Max doesn't even dignify that with an answer.
  • Due to the Dead: Emily was buried in the churchyard, in hallowed ground. Her brother in cat form dies on her grave.
  • Dumbass Has a Point:
    • Max tells Binx that it wasn't his fault that Emily died. It really wasn't; no one had arrived in time to save Emily or her brother, and Binx at the time was outnumbered and underequipped.
    • And at the climax, Sarah and Mary try to tell Winnie that they can use what's left of the potion to drink the souls of the children that were lured in by Sarah; then they can go after the main characters. Too bad Winnie is incredibly vindictive and wants to specifically kill Dani for calling her a hag.
  • Dying Curse: At her hanging, Winifred pronounces that "on All Hallows' Eve, when the moon is round, a virgin will summon us from under the ground" and then all the children will be theirs.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Sarah's first appearance after being resurrected.
    Sarah: My lucky rat tail! Just where I left it!
    • Winifred's first line is also a pretty good character establisher.
    Winifred: Ah, look. Another glorious morning. Makes me sick!
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Sandersons might be dysfunctional as it gets, but Winnie never once considers sacrificing her sisters or leaving them behind in her quest for immortality even if she's exasperated with them regularly. Any mention of their mother will also result in the three bowing their heads reverently. Not to mention Mary trying rush to Winnie’s aid when Max nearly causes Winnie to fall off her broom when she’s trying to suck his life force.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Winnie apparently can't understand self-sacrifice, especially for a family member.
  • Evil Is Hammy: In contrast to everyone else's more subdued performances, the Sanderson sisters and their actresses are certainly enjoying themselvesnote .
  • Evil Is Petty: Dozens of helpless potential victims are lumbering mindlessly into the Sanderson sisters' clutches, but Winnie insists on going after Dani because the girl called her ugly.
  • Evil Plan: The witches want to be young and beautiful forever, but they need to retrieve their spellbook from three human children and a cat.
  • Evil Redhead: Winifred the witch has red hair. She's also easily the most evil out of the three.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: The three witches come back to life exactly 300 years later after their execution. It's by the way at the cost of being historically incorrect: the Salem trials happened in 1692, and by the next year, it been forbidden to accuse someone of witchcraft again in order to avoid the same chaos.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: Except for the 1693 prologue, the entire movie takes place in the span of about sixteen hours on Halloween night.
  • Eye Awaken: The book is alert at the end of the movie.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Allison accidentally opened an oven she gets the idea of burning the witches.

  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Just as Max grabs the potion, Winifred is holding Dani hostage and threatening to snap her neck unless Max surrenders the bottle. Max then takes a deep breath and gulps quietly. He proceeds to swallow the potion, signing his life away in exchange for his sister's.
    • Binx only gives a calm meoooow before being allowed to die. His ghost tells Dani to not be sad because his soul is finally free.
    • Of all the three, Sarah has the decency to act like a Graceful Loser when sunrise comes. She merely spreads her arms and bids farewell to her sisters.
  • Fairytale Motifs: Some to Hansel and Gretel. The parents send a boy and his sister out of the house which leads to them visiting the witches' house. The witches attempt to eat one child and lock two others in a cage and the heroes attempt to kill them by burning them in the school furnace.
  • Fake Wizardry: Max is able to scare the witches long enough to flee with his friends by convincing them that he has powerful magic. He does this by setting off the sprinkler system with a lighter, neither of which the witches have ever seen.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Winifred's pettiness is what ultimately dooms her and her sisters. Sarah and Mary point out to her that they don't need to chase after Max and Dani because they've already got a kid to feed their potion to, and thanks to Sarah's singing more are coming to the house. They can always make more potion afterwards because they've got the book back, but Winifred's too dead set on getting back at Dani for calling her "ugly" to care. Had she not been so dead set on revenge, the trio would've gotten their souls and made it past sunrise.
    • Mary and Sarah always bowing to Winifred also counts as this - if they stood up to her every once in a while they might have been able to talk her down from going after Dani.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Binx is cursed to be an immortal cat, unable to talk for centuries, all because he called Winifred ugly.
    • The party at the town hall, at least after the witches take over the proceedings. "Dance until you die!"
  • Femme Fatalons: Winifred's sharp nails.
  • Fiery Redhead: Winifred.
  • Fingore: Billy's fingers are severed by a manhole cover, but since he's a zombie, he gets better.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • A comedic example, when the sisters are in "Satan"'s house, a decorative sign reads "A Rotten Dog Lives Here". Moments later, they're chased out of the house by an extremely small dog.
    • Likewise, a sign that the witches are Not Quite Dead after apparently being burned up in the school kiln is their spell on the adults (and Binx) has not ceased. Sure enough, they step out unharmed.
    • Right before the "daylight savings" trick, the camera closes up on the headlights on their SUV.
  • Flying Broomstick: Played straight and then parodied when their brooms are stolen, forcing Sarah to fly on a mop and Mary on a vacuum cleaner.
  • Forced to Watch: Thackeray Binx fails to save Emily and is forced to see her life getting sucked out of her.
  • Forced Transformation: Thackary Binx is transformed into a cat by the Sanderson Sisters for attempting to stop their ritual and then insulting them. He was also cursed with immortality.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "This is hallowed ground. Witches can't set foot here."
    • "Oh, look. Another glorious morning. Makes me SICK!"
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself:
    • Max wears street clothes when he takes Dani trick-or-treating. His father Dave thinks he's supposed to be a hip-hop deejay, while Dani insists he's a Little Leaguer.
    • The Sanderson sisters are dressed as stereotypical witches because that's what they are. Meaning they're attending Halloween as themselves, but just happen to fit in extremely well.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the cable version, the "phone number" that Max ostentatiously hands to Alison is just the famous 555 exchange...and nothing else. The real movie contains a seven-digit 555 number.
  • From the Mouths of Babes:
    • Dani repeatedly mentioning Max being a virgin. One gets the impression she doesn't really know what it is, just that it's why Max was able to light the candle, so it must apply to him, and the fact that it embarrasses him is just a bonus.
    • She also openly talks about Max's love of Allison's "yabbos".
    • Also, "You sold your soul!" to Winifred.
  • Functional Magic
  • Funny Background Event: During a scene where the witches are hiding from firemen after Max sets off the sprinkler, Winnie explains to Mary they must be witch hunters, whereas Sarah notices "a pretty spider" and proceeds to eat it.
  • Genki Girl: Sarah is giddy and excited about everything.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Sarah - the prettiest and most feminine of the sisters - is color-coded with purple. As she's a witch, there's some overlap with Purple Is Powerful and Technicolor Magic.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The witch sisters claim to have received their powers from the Devil, thus making him responsible for all their evil. However, the fallen angel is otherwise not involved in the plot.
  • Good All Along: Billy Butcherson turns out to be this by the end of the movie, helping the kids protect themselves against the witches to the best of his abilities. The only reason the kids - and the audience - didn't know was because his mouth was sewn shut by Winnie.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Mostly averted. Despite being a Disney film, some mild profanities are used. But one exception is when Winnifred shouts, "Cheese and crust!" in place of "Jesus Christ!".
  • Gut Punch:
    • In the beginning, Thackeray fails to save his little sister from the Sanderson sisters, and she is murdered onscreen. Emily's death casts a shadow over the rest of the film, and haunts Binx as an immortal cat.
    • Binx dies for real at the end of the movie. One last meooow and he closes his eyes. It doesn't help that he looks so peaceful in death, as Danni tearfully tries to rouse him.

  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Winnie.
  • Halloween Episode: The Black Flame Candle only works on Halloween, and once lit, will not last beyond this day.
  • Handsome Lech: Sarah is a rare female example. It's honestly shocking for a Disney film that she flirts with every single male she comes across—from Thackeray to Max to Billy to a random bus driver to Max's bullies to a random costumed man at the party...the list goes on and on. And despite being rather attractive and flirtatious, there is no evidence to suggest she actually is successful with men or boys. Moreover, her idea of fun probably isn't what most men anticipate.
    Sarah: Thou wouldst hate me in the morning.
    Bus Driver: No I wouldn't!
    Winifred: Believe me, thou wouldst.
    • When they are deciding what to do with Binx, Sarah says, "Hang him on a hook and...let me play with him?" in a very suggestive but creepy manner.
  • Hanging Around: In the beginning portion of the film that is set in the past, the Sanderson sisters are hanged by the townspeople when they are discovered to be witches who suck the life-forces of little children to prolong their lives.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Invoked in setting up the Virgin-Shaming Running Gag.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The Sandersons. Sarah the youngest is the Maiden, Mary the right hand one to Winnie is the Matron, and Winnie takes on the role of the Crone.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Billy starts out chasing the children. They just barely manage to slip out of his arms at the party — in front of their parents, no less. (Mom wishes she had a camera.) Ultimately, he sides with them after he rips out the threads holding his mouth shut.
  • A Hell of a Time: According to Winifred, hell is quite lovely.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Inverted; if someone had lit the candle and killed the witches permanently, Binx would be allowed to move on to the afterlife. Binx wouldn't even consider that option because it's too dangerous and has prevented numerous "airhead virgins" from doing such a thing.
    • Binx leaps onto Winifred when the latter threatens Dani, so that the latter drops the life potion. Winifred in response knocks him off her broom, injuring Binx. He's later able to pass on after he sees the witches defeated and Dani safe.
    • Subverted. Max interferes with the witches' plans in order to save Dani, offering up his life in exchange for hers. He doesn't go down without a fight, however, and grapples with Winifred so she can't absorb his life. Unfortunately for the Sanderson sisters, and fortunately for Max, they are out of time, not helped by the fact that Winifred set foot on hallowed ground to get at Max, something that witches can't do.
  • Holy Burns Evil:
    • When Winifred sneezes, a passing little girl (in costume as an Angel) says "Bless you!" prompting all three sisters to react with horror.
    • As per the spell that only resurrected them for one night, the Sanderson sisters will be turned to dust when the sun rises.
    • Witches can't set foot on hallowed ground and when Winifred tries to quickly kill Max in the graveyard before sunrise, she's turned into a stone statue for standing in a holy place. As if that weren't enough, when the sunlight hits the statue, it explodes.
  • Hope Spot: Max and Company lead the witches into an oven at the high school, lock them in and turn it on, essentially burning them to death. They believe they've won and come home with a new cat and the spellbook in tow. Unfortunately, the witches survived and Allison opens the spellbook alerting the witches to where they are.
  • Hot Witch: Sarah is the prettiest witch of the three, and her outfit emphasizes her breasts. She's also hit on by plenty of characters.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: When Winifred tells Billy Butcherson to kill Max, he cuts the thread stitching his lips together and tells her off:
    Billy: Wench! Trollop! You buck-toothed, mop-riding firefly from HELL! [Winifred shrieks] I've waited centuries to say that.
    Max: (looking away, disgusted) Say what you want; just don't breathe on me!
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Jay: Man, how come it's always the ugly chicks that stay out late?!
    Winifred: Chicks?
    • Contrast with Winifred's offense at Dani calling her "Ugly."
  • Idiot Ball: In the climax, Dani climbs out of the protected salt-circle (which is Billy's grave), to get his head back for him, which he probably would have done on his own eventually anyway, allowing Winifred to snatch her off the sacred ground. Somewhat justified due to her age.
  • Idiotic Partner Confession: At the beginning of the film, the Sanderson sisters are trying to convince the angry mob that they are not witches:
    Winnie: Don't get your knickers in a twist! We're just three kindly old spinster ladies.
    Mary: Spending a quiet evening at home.
    Sarah: Sucking the lives out of little children!
    [Winnie chokes Sarah]
  • If I Can't Have You…: Winifred's reason behind killing her ex-boyfriend is that he dumped her/cheated on her with her sister.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The film strongly implies that the Sanderson Sisters don't just absorb children's life force, they also eat them.
  • Immortality Seeker: You might think the Sanderson sisters are Vain Sorceresses but eternal youth is only half of what they want.
    Winifred: We want to live forever. Not just until tomorrow!
  • Intellectual Animal: Binx can talk and knows a lot more about what's going on than anyone else. Justified in that he's really a boy who was forcibly transformed into a cat.
  • Ironic Echo: At one point, Winifred swoops in on the kids, taunting them with Max's earlier line, "It's just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!"
  • It's Personal: The witches spend much of the time trying to capture and kill Dani, but when she calls Winifred ugly, this very trope makes her even more determined to capture and kill Dani. This is not helped by Max knocking over the cauldron full of the witches' brew, leaving only enough left for one child.

  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Binx and Emily's ghosts at the end are wearing the clothes they died in.
  • Jump Scare: The scene where Max and Allison rush to Dani's bed to wake her up, only to find Sarah hiding under the sheets. The accompanying Scare Chord is what makes this moment effective.
  • Kavorka Man: Winifred is subtly implied to be a female example; while Bette Midler underwent a decent amount of Beauty Inversion to play the buck-toothed, browless, Uncanny Valley Makeup-sporting witch, adult men treat Winifred as though she's just as attractive as Mary (who, apart from the weird way she contorts her mouth, is a Big Beautiful Woman) and Sarah (whose Brainless Beauty status is ninety percent of her character). The teen boys of the film heavily disagree.
  • Kick the Dog: When the witches encounter Binx in cat form, they mock him for failing to save Emily. He hisses at them in response.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Just about everywhere in the sequel story, including a reference to the original film's Cult Classic status.
    Dani: We haven't really wrapped up the Halloween festivities yet, so it's not too late to watch our favorite Halloween movie. [Max and Allison both groan] Come on! It's a cult classic! We've watched it every Halloween since we were kids!
  • Large Ham: All three of the witches, but Bette Midler as Winifred is unquestionably the biggest one in the whole film. Best exemplified by the scene where she tries to out-yowl a cat.
  • Laughably Evil: The witches are surprisingly comedic considering the fact that they drain the life out of children, particularly Sarah.
  • Life Energy: With the help of a potion, the witches could just take a few long whiffs and their victim will be dead.
  • Light Is Not Good: Beautiful, sunny-haired, ditzy Sarah, singing sweetly to lure children to their deaths at the hands of the witches.
  • Literal Metaphor: "I Put a Spell on You" as sung by Winnie, is not just a song.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Dani comments on Max's crush on Allison and lack of sex life in general. She also snarks almost every other opportunity. After Max lights the black flame candle and all manner of visuals and sound effects occur:
    Max: What happened?
    Dani: A virgin [adjusts her witch's hat] lit the candle.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: A downplayed example is in Binx. He doesn't enjoy immortality, but he does find a purpose in it by keeping virgins from lighting the Black Flame Candle. Also, when it seems like the witches are dead, he doesn't seem to mind Danni turning him into her "fat useless house cat".
  • Loophole Abuse: "This is hallowed ground. Witches can't set foot here." What they can do is hover over it and reanimate a corpse. Binx lampshades this, to Dani's dismay.
    Max: (The witches) can't touch us here, right?
    Binx: Well... they can't.
    Dani: [beat] I don't like the way you said that.
  • Magic Music: "Come Little Children" and "I Put a Spell on You" combine this with Compelling Voice. Both of them work magic through lyrics.
  • Magitek: Possibly how Mary was able to activate her vacuum cleaner unplugged.
  • Malicious Misnaming: In an early scene, Max introduces himself to the two bullies, Jay and "Ice", and says he's from Los Angeles. They start calling him "Hollywood" from then on.
  • Men of Sherwood: At the beginning of the film, Mr. Binx, his wife, Thackery's best friend and a bunch of Living Prop Puritan townsfolk march on the home of three immensely powerful and murderous witches...and capture and execute them without any apparent difficulty.
  • Missing Child: At the start of the film, a girl named Emily Binx goes missing, and it turns out she was kidnapped by three evil witches who suck out her life. Later, the witches capture a little girl named Dani, but she gets saved. At the end of the sequel book, a teenage girl had gone missing and is still missing one year later, as part of a Sequel Hook below.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: A major reason that the film ended up being a Cult Classic instead of "just another kids' movie". It's just dark enough to satisfy viewers who came in expecting a horror movie, with enough humor to satisfy viewers who might have preferred a comedy, enough child and teenage characters to appeal to younger viewers, a love story for fans of romance, a ton of musical numbers from Bette Midler and co. for music-lovers, and a surprisingly earnest story of sibling love for viewers who might prefer a drama.
  • Murder by Cremation: The main characters do this to the trio of witches. However, they are later revived by their magic book, and the kids have to come up with a different plan.
  • The Music Meister: Winifred enchants a town hall full of party goers to literally dance themselves to death.
  • My Greatest Failure: Even after 300 years, Binx is still beating himself up over Emily's death.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: When he sees Winifred threatening Dani, Binx in cat form leaps on the witch and makes her drop the potion. It allows Max to save Dani, and everyone manages to fight the witches until sunrise. Binx is finally allowed to pass on.

  • Nature Abhors a Virgin: Surprisingly matched with Virgin Power. Virginity provides the wherewithal to bring Satan's minions to earth but subverted in that Max never gets over his virginity. (This being a Disney film, and Max being 15.)
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Max appears to be this at first, and gets treated this way by most of the other characters, and who can blame them? Max does wear a tie-dyed T-shirt and harbors radical left-wing beliefs (such as his suspicion that Halloween is actually a conspiracy on the part of the candy companies). He ultimately subverts the stereotype when he's offered a marijuana cigarette and he turns it down.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Some Disney Channel commercials omit any reference to the children, instead appearing to promote the witches as the stars.
  • The '90s: Max's hair alone dates this movie. However, once the plot really gets going, he (and the lack of cell phones) is pretty much the only thing that does - Allison's hair and clothes are relatively simple and generic, and almost everyone else is either in a Halloween costume or genuine 1693 clothes.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Depends on whether Winifred needed it to cast the comeback curse, but the guy who dropped the spellbook to cover his ears certainly doesn't win any points.
    • Max lights the enchanted candle to impress Allison, showing that he's not afraid of an old legend. Binx nearly says the trope name when he reveals to Max he can talk.
    Binx: (sarcastically) Nice going, Max.
    • Hoping to undo the curse cast on Binx, Allison and Max open the spellbook to find an answer, only for it to emit a glowing orange light that gives away their exact location to the witches.
    • Subverted when Dani calls Winifred ugly. While it means that the witches are gunning for her, it also means they ignore the dozens of hypnotized children they could devour.
    • Then it gets Zig-Zagged at the end where Binx after he dies tells Emily's spirit that he took so long to die because he had to wait for a "virgin" to light the candle. The witches wouldn't have come back, but Binx would have stayed in cat form for an eternity.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Winnie basically defeats herself; with one small sample of potion left, she could use any of the children heading for the Sanderson house to complete her ritual, but she's determined to make Dani her victim after their recent conflict, which gives the kids the chance to lure the sisters away and delay them until sunrise.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: When Max finds out how dangerous Winifred's book is he is Genre Savvy enough to try to destroy it on the spot. Unfortunately it's protected by dark magic which makes this impossible.
  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • The party-goers are cursed to dance until they die. The curse ends when the witches die. The curses binding Binx and Billy to life also break.
    • A zigzagged example is when after the Sandersons are led to burn in the school kiln and the group believes they have won, Binx is still alive as a talking cat, and Allison believes another spell is necessary to undo the curse. It turns out to be because the witches are not truly dead yet.
  • The Nose Knows: Mary can smell children from very far away (possibly a Shout-Out to Hansel and Gretel); this leads to a rather humorous scene, where she can smell them all over the place, but can't see them, and starts to lament that she may have lost her powers. They're all in plain sight, but the Halloween costumes are confusing all three of them, being a tradition that came after their time. An interesting case of Shown Their Work, at that; the original purpose of dressing in costumes on All Hallow's Eve was to hide from monsters, and the Sandersons certainly qualify.
  • No-Sell: Sarah's "Come, Little Children" doesn't work on Thackery, Elijah, Allison, or Max. It's unclear if they weren't affected because they weren't the targets, or because they are older teens. We know Max is old enough to drive a car, at least.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Billy, unless you count two-timing on his lover "evil".note  The whole reason he's assumed to be evil for most of the movie is because his lips are sewn shut and he can't speak; when he finally manages to do so, then he's able to express his true loyalties.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The Sandersons may seem comically bumbling about 80 percent of the time, Emily's murder being utter Nightmare Fuel, but you'd be wise not to mess with them when they really get angry. Sarah in particular seems a harmless, ditzy woman through most of the movie. Then she starts singing sweetly, luring children into the trio's clutches, and you know she's deadly.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Zigzagged. Winifred throws Binx from a great height, and he smashes against Emily's gravestone. This takes him out of the climactic fight because he's not dead but too injured to move. He only is allowed to die when the witches pass on at sunrise.
  • Novelization:
    • The first half of Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel novelized the movie.
    • The first half was rereleased in 2022 under the title "Hocus Pocus: The Illustrated Novelization" with artwork by Gris Grimly.
  • Offscreen Inertia: The last we see of Jay and "Ice", they're still locked in their cages singing a round of "Row Your Boat". Granted, the main trio knew they were there from Dani's earlier rescue, but who knows how long they were left to stew.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The mob in the prologue successfully subdued the three witches and strung them up on a gallows. It doesn't look like they suffered any casualties either.
  • Oh, Crap!: Billy reacts in this way twice, each time just before he (literally) loses his head. Mary waves bye-bye to signal that her own number is up. He also does a downplayed (and highly comical) version when he first rises from his grave, apparently confused as to what's going on. Then he turns and sees his own gravestone, and hangs his head along with a noise that is pretty clearly "Oh crap, I'm dead".
  • Out of Focus: Mary and Sarah Sanderson in the sequel novel.

  • Painful Transformation: Thackery Binx's transformation into a cat is intentionally painful because this trope was invoked by the Sanderson sisters.
  • Papa Wolf: Mr. Binx angrily interrogates the witches before they hang on the gallows about what they did with his son. Given that her gravestone is seen, he had also found Emily's body and what they had done to her.
  • Parent Service: Sarah shows a lot of cleavage, and you get a very good view of her cleavage during the second singing of "Come Little Children".
  • Pet the Dog:
    • According to Binx, Winifred was so mad with jealousy when she caught Billy "sporting" with Sarah that she poisoned him and sewed his lips shut. However there's no mention of her inflicting any kind of punishment on her sister, presumably because Sarah is too stupid to know any better.
    • She also does apparently care enough about her sisters to share Emily's life force with them instead of just drinking all of it herself.
  • Pillar of Light: Allison, Max, and Dani take possession of Winifred's spell book, and when Max and Allison open it, they unintentionally unleash from it a pillar of light which serves as a beacon for the Sanderson sisters, especially Winifred, who had been desperate to retrieve her book. The witches follow the light and break into the Dennison home to retrieve the book and then kidnap Dani and Binx.
  • Please Wake Up: Dani to Binx near the end. It's harsher than the standard because he was immortal up until then, which Dani tearfully states.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted — the apparent cop who bullies the children and insults Max's manhood is only in costume.
  • Precision F-Strike: The times within the space of a few minutes when Billy says phrases that involve the word, "Hell!"
  • Product Placement:
  • Properly Paranoid: In the sequel story, it's revealed that Max bought a safe specifically to hold what remains of the Black Flame Candle and tried (and failed) to get the Sanderson house bulldozed after the events of the first movie.
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Sarah is so childlike, it's very easy to forget she's homicidal and very dangerous, and her idea of "play" likely involves death and, at one point, possibly torture. Sarah Jessica Parker's delivery makes her lines less creepy, until you think about them. One line sums her up instantly.
    Sarah: My lucky rat tail! Just where I left it!
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The idea for the story came about when David Kirschner (writer) encountered the neighborhood cat while with his daughter. He then jokingly told her the cat was really a boy who was transformed by witches to which she became very fascinated and wanted to know more. He then created the basis that would become Hocus Pocus.
  • Redhead In Green: Winifred is the redhead in the trio of sisters and she's color-coded with green.
  • Reduced to Dust: The Sanderson Witches die this way when the power of the Black Flame Candle runs out. Rather than have their bodies become dust bit by bit when it happens, they explode (though Winnie turns into a statue because she’s on holy ground before she blows up herself).
  • Resurrective Immortality: Thackery is cursed with the ability to revive from anything that kills him.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The witches could have won if they'd given the potion to the two bullies, but Winifred wanted specifically to consume the life force of Dani, who had called her ugly.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    Winifred: Why, why, why was I cursed with such idiot sisters!? <sobs>
    Sarah: Just lucky I guess.
    Winifred: Ugh!
  • Rule of Funny: A few of the movie's humorous moments make very little sense from a character or story standpoint, but are nonetheless kept in because they're hilarious. To name a couple of examples:
    • Why do the Sanderson Sisters try to be discreet when Max calls them out at the party, only to lap up the spotlight when it's turned right on them, 5 seconds later? Because both are hilarious, that's why.note 
    • In the scene where Winnifred catches up to Max's car on her broomstick, she jokingly pretends to be a traffic cop pulling him over, even asking him for his registration. How does she know what a traffic cop is when she didn't even know what a car was a few hours earlier? Who cares? It's hilarious!
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Pay very close attention to the background during the climax, after Binx attacks Winifred and is thrown to the ground: the grave he landed by is that of his sister.
    • After Thackery is reunited with his sister as spirits, the last shot of them is them standing before a graveyard's gate, much like the gates of Heaven.
  • Running Gag:
    • Max's virginity is referenced oh so often, sometimes as a metaphor for idiot. His eight-year-old sister, Dani, only mentions it three times. It has been theorized that Dani was just getting her big brother's goat without knowing virginity's meaning, but the contexts belie that interpretation. On the other hand, she also twice mocks Max's attraction to Allison (and her "yabbos").
    • Binx's increasingly affectionate barbs at Max, and hitting him when he does something stupid. Made even funnier when Max and Allison open the book: it was Allison's idea, and while he yells at her, Binx keeps slapping Max in the face.

  • Sacrificial Lamb: Emily is the movie's first casualty, ten minutes after the credits roll. From what we see she was a sweet girl whom Thackery would protect with his life. As a ghost, she playfully calls to Thackery when welcoming him to heaven.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: That's where the protagonist witches were from, and reappear to do their evil.
  • Same Language Dub: Sean Murray portrays Binx in human form, but Jason Marsden supplies his voice. The reason was that the creators decided mid-filming that Binx should have an English accent, but Murray wasn't able to do it very well. Thus, Marsden was brought on.
  • Sanity Ball: It's briefly held by Sarah and Mary when they point out to Winifred that they don't need to chase after Max and Dani because they've already got a kid to feed their potion to, and thanks to Sarah's singing more are coming to the house. They can always make more potion afterwards because they've got the book back, but Winifred's too dead set on getting back at Dani for calling her "ugly" to care.
  • Satan: He never appears in person, but the Sanderson sisters call him their "master" (when meeting a man in a "devil" Halloween costume and mistaking him for the real thing), and a museum sign claims he gave Winifred her spell book.
  • Schmuck Bait: The black flame candle that is said to bring back a trio of witches, if lit by a virgin during a full moon on Halloween night. Binx and Dani call Max an "airhead virgin" for falling for this.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: Cemeteries are hallowed ground, and any witch who sets foot on hallowed ground gets turned to stone.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The final shot before the credits shows the book waking up again, implying that either the sisters STILL aren't gone for good or some other evil force is calling to it. A sequel materialized 25 years later in the form of a novel.
    • The sequel novel also has this at the ending. Poppy realizes that Winifred's book has gone missing, and then exactly one year later a teenage warlock uses it to re-awaken his brother, Billy, again.
  • See You in Hell:
    Billy Butcherson: Go to Hell!
    Winifred: Oh! I've been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely.
  • Shadow Archetype: Max begins the film extremely self-centered, over-dramatic, short-tempered and showing an enormous amount of disdain for his annoying but loving little sister. Comparisons are drawn with Max and Binx, but the stronger parallels are with Max and Winifred, an extremely self-centered, over-dramatic and short-tempered witch who despises her incompetent, yet devoted, younger sisters. Sarah and Mary follow Winifred into what will clearly be their own demise and die after a clumsy attempt to save her from Max, a gesture Winifred would hardly return.
    Winifred: What a fool to give up thy life...for thy sister's.
  • Shock and Awe: Winnie can fire painful electrical blasts from her fingers.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During the "I Put a Spell on You" number, Winnie calls out, "Hello, Salem! My name's Winifred, what's yours?" This is a nod to Mama Rose in Gypsy, who said, "Hello, world, my name is Rose! What's yours?" (which was spoken by Louise earlier) Doubles as an Actor Allusion when Bette Midler played Mama Rose in the TV version on the same year that Hocus Pocus was released.
    • At the beginning of "I Put a Spell on You", Winnie gives out a shout-out to one of Elton John's songs:
      Winifred: Now the witch is back! And there's hell to pay.
    • Also, the "I Put a Spell on You" number is an homage to Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who wrote the song, although the original actually started with "I put a spell on you, 'cause you're mine."
    • Winnie also gives a nod to The Beatles when she shocks Max:
      Winifred: Hello... goodbye!
    • Jay and Ice being trapped in cages to fatten them up, as well as being trapped in a kiln, to Hansel and Gretel.
    • A man wearing a TRON costume can be seen at the party Max and Dani's parents are attending.
    • Winnie scares a boy dressed in a Sonic the Hedgehog costume.
    • Max Sarcastically tells a cop to tattoo his virginity status on his head.
    • In the sequel, Allison is now an attorney and then negotiating with "the Man in charge" of Hell while she, Max, and Dani are there, which is likely a nod to The Devil and Daniel Webster.
  • Shown Their Work: Unlike many of its counterparts, this film accurately portrays Salem authorities executing witches by hanging instead of burning them at the stake.
  • Skeptic No Longer:
    • Max initially makes jokes about the witches, and believes that Halloween itself is a candy company conspiracy. Then the witches show up, he is berated by a talking cat, and is then onboard with the "magic is real" message.
    • Max and Allison's daughter in the sequel believes her parents' story about what happened with the Sanderson sisters is just them being ridiculous, and says as much to them. And then she goes to the Sanderson house on a Halloween that coincides with a blood moon and ends up waking the Sanderson sisters herself.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Max and Binx, so much. For every comment Max makes, Binx has one of his own.
  • Solitary Sorceress: The witches' cottage seems to be just outside of old Salem (but not so far as to be inaccessible to the mob), though by the modern day it's within the limits of the town.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Binx snarling "Nice going, Max!" in his standard 17th-century Colonial accent.
  • Spell Book: Bound in human skin, and emblazoned with a living human eye, no less.
  • Squashed Flat: A more dramatic version of the trope, but Thackery as a cat is squashed by a bus and his chest is visibly flattened against the road. Although he is believed to be dead by the other characters, he is healed shortly after due to his immortality curse.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Max tries to burn the witch's book after Binx tells him and Allison that it's pure evil. Unfortunately, one cigarette lighter isn't enough to do the job.
  • The Stinger: A number of them. After we see Thackery and Emily finally reunited at the gates of Heaven, the end credits are accompanied by the following: Dave and Jenny Dennison and all the other townspeople stumbling out of the town hall in their costumes, with Dave commenting that "I thought L.A. was a party town!"; Jay and Ice still locked in birdcages in the Sandersons' lair, pitifully singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to pass the time; and a final tip-off that the Sanderson sisters may be Not Quite Dead.
  • Summon to Hand: If the spellbook is nearby, Winnifred can call to it and it will float over to her.
  • Surrounded by Idiots:
    Winifred: WHY? Why was I cursed with such IDIOT sisters?
    Sarah: Just lucky, I guess.
    • Binx as well. Max and Dani are about as sharp as bowling balls, with Allison flip-flopping between good decisions and bad ones. Downplayed in that Max is the only one Binx routinely gets frustrated with.He dies on her grave, and then his spirit is reunited with hers right after.
  • Take a Third Option: At the end, Max either has to give up the potion or Winifred will kill Dani, threatening to snap her neck. If he does give up the potion, Winifred will force-feed Dani the potion to suck out her life. What does he do? He drinks the potion instead, effectively cheating Winifred out of Dani's life by forcing her to take him instead.
    Winifred: (outraged at Max) What a fool to give up thy life... for thy sister's.
  • Taken for Granite: Winifred. The result of her standing on the hallowed ground while trying to steal Max's life.
  • Talking Animal: Binx the talking cat.
  • Teen Hater: After two firemen come to shut off the "burning rain of death", they express contempt for teenagers on Halloween once they exit the house.
    Fireman #1: Teenagers again.
    Fireman #2: I hate Halloween.
  • Terrible Trio: The three witch sisters, of course.
  • Title Drop: "C'mon, it's all just a bunch of hocus pocus." Winifred later repeats the same line in a mocking way when they're flying/chasing after the protagonists through the graveyard.
  • Together in Death: Binx's spirit reunited with his sister in the afterlife.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: Winifred, Mary, and Sarah: not evil-sounding names. Sarah and Mary in particular are actually very common names, and while Winifred, a Welsh name, isn't especially common, it actually means "holy, blessed reconciliation"- characteristics she decidedly does not embody.note 
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Winifred's spellbook. Bound in human skin (complete with human eyeball) and given to her by Satan himself. Plus, it's at least partially sentient.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Sarah gets the witches executed by her utter lack of discretion. She accidentally wakes Thackeray while charming Emily to follow her, and runs in the woods rather than taking the child on her broom. This allows Thackeray's neighbor to get help and raise an angry mob. When the mob comes, Sarah blurts out they're sucking the lives out of children.
    • The kids during the final scenes in the graveyard. Dani is safely protected by a circle of salt - with enough space for the other two to join in the circle as well. Yet they opt to fight the witches outside of it. Then Dani decides to leave the circle to help Billy get his head back. This very nearly costs her her life and then almost her brother's. At least partly justified since a child her age would realistically make such decisions.
    • Also, Winifred. See Fatal Flaw above.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Thackery as a human wasn't even able to strike a blow against the witches since they incapacitated him. In cat form, he proves to be far more formidable.
    • Max has a hard time fending off two bullies, and is made fun of a lot. When the witches appear, he has the presence of mind to bluff long enough to get Dani out of the cottage. By the end of the movie he drinks a life-draining potion to save Dani and grapples with Winifred in time for dawn to come.
  • Too Old to Trick-or-Treat: Max's fear is realized when "half the guys at school" see him with Dani on Halloween night and think he's going trick-or-treating himself. Dani only makes matters worse by explaining his "costume".
    • The wife of "Satan" says this ad verbatim to the Sandersons.
  • Totally Radical: Only used by Jay and Ice to make fun of Max's California origins.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Played for Drama in the opening and justified. Thackeray sees Emily running off after Sarah and tells his neighbor Elijah to get help and alert his father to stop the witches. He's barely able to keep up, not helping that he slips in the woods while barefoot. By the time he makes it, Emily's already in the witches' cottage and Thackeray fails to take the trio on alone. The mob comes seconds after the witches murder Emily and transform Binx, armed to the teeth and angry but too late to rescue either child. Justified in that there are no roads or cars in colonial Salem, and it would take longer to reach people in the village. Thackeray had adrenaline on his side and the advantage of being able to follow Sarah.

  • Undeath Always Ends: Thackery's cursed immortality at the end, along with his sister, who has apparently been a ghost for 300 years.
  • Unexpectedly Real Magic: When Allison takes Dani and Max to the witches museum on Halloween showing them the Sanderson Sinsters' home and possessions, including the Black Flame Candle, which will bring them back to life for one night when lit by a virgin on All Hallows Eve, Max, who happens to be a virgin, sarcastically suggests lighting it and meeting them. After being attacked by Binx the cat, the girls want to leave, but Max dismisses it all as "a bunch of hocus pocus" and lights the candle. The flame turns black and the witches come back. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Unexpected Virgin: Playfully inverted in Real Life with a bit of tie-in merch: Colourpop, a cosmetics company in the US, included a Black Flame Candle in their 2021 Halloween product collection themed after this movie. Considering most of their products are marketed toward millennial and older-Gen Z customers, the joking implication seems to be that it's safe to sell the candles to a demographic that probably not virgins.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Actually subverted. Allison gets an idea of how to take out the witches, but does not explain it. In the next scene, the heroes successfully pull off the plan, which is to lure the witches into an oven at the high school, and turn it on. The kids think they've won and gone home, but the witch's actually survive due to the magic of the black flame candle.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Yabbos" to describe what Max loves. According to IMDB, "yabbos" was used in National Lampoon's Animal House for breasts in the phrase "major-league yabbos."
  • Vain Sorceress: The witch sisters are delighted to have become young and beautiful again in the prologue after draining life from a child. Winifred also flips out when she's called ugly.
  • Vampiric Draining: The three witches do this to a young girl to maintain their youth.
  • Villain Ball: Winnie holds it pretty hard at some points, but the worst is when the three sisters have everything they need to win, at least temporarily — enough potion to suck the life out of at least one child, which would give them enough time to live at least past Halloween and make more, plus the spell book and a whole crowd of children on which to use it, and Winnie gives up the perfect opportunity to go get the life of one specific child, who called her "ugly." Even given that Winnie had been shown many times beforehand to be vain, self-centered, arrogant and vindictive, you would still think she would ensure that she would live past the end of the night, then go after Dani.
  • Villain Song:
    • "I Put a Spell on You" qualifies as both this and Magic Music. Winnie openly gloats over what she's doing to the party-goers, even as she's doing it.
    "The witch is back, and there's hell to pay!"
    "Your wretched little lives have all been cursed 'Cause of all the witches working I'm the worst! [...] Ask my sisters."
    "(She's vicious!)"
    • Sarah gets one in the form of "Come, Little Children", which she sings to lure the children of Salem to the witches' lair.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Dani begins using "virgin" as practically a synonym for "idiot" after Max lights the candle, though it's implied that she doesn't really know what a virgin is (other than something Max is really annoyed to be called).
  • Virgin Power: A virgin can resurrect the witches. Probably only a virgin can, and while Winnie probably meant a maiden witch in training... well:
    Max: (after feeling the room shake) What happened?
    Dani: A virgin (referring to Max) lit the candle.
  • Virgin-Shaming: The fake motorcycle cop mocks Max by acting disbelieving that he is one.
    • Dani uses 'virgin' as an insult several times, but as mentioned above, it's implied that she doesn't really know what a virgin is other than something Max is annoyed at being reminded applies to him.
  • The Weird Sisters: The plot revolves around the Evil Plan of three witches, the Sanderson sisters, to suck out the souls of the children of Salem, Massachusetts.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The scene of Emily dying, and her corpse slumped over with grey hair. That's when we know the witches aren't playing around.
    • Max drinking the potion in the climax. It changes the stakes from "keeping Dani safe" to "Holding The Line to save Max".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • What happened to the three girls who took the Sandersons' brooms?
    • The last we saw of Max's house was the Sanderson sisters completely destroying the top floor. One wonders what his parents will think when they finally get home.
    • Because some televised versions of the film edited out The Stinger, many viewers may be left wondering what happened to the adults at the Halloween party who were cursed to "dance until they die". In The Stinger they're shown leaving the party in an exhausted mass.
    • Max, Dani, Allison, and Binx leave the bullies Jay and Ernie aka ICE stuck in the cages in The Sanderson Sisters house after Max, Allison, and Binx rescue Dani from having her soul drained by The Sanderson Sisters and they're still there during the final stinger when the spell book reawakens. Do they starve? The stinger scene (which is usually edited out of Freeform airings) shows Jay and Ice singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" while still in their cages.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Dani and Binx both call out Max for lighting the candle, though at the end Binx thanks him since defeating the witches a second time allows him to die and move on to the afterlife.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Happens to Binx in the beginning when he is cursed. It's deconstructed as eventually he gets tired of moping around and starts doing something with his eternal life.
  • Whole Costume Reference: Well, not the whole costume, but Winnie’s double-puffed heart-shaped updo hairstyle and bright red hair are a visual allusion to Elizabeth I’s preferred wig style later in her life (though Winnie’s is clearly her own hair pinned up- it’s white before she de-ages herself, and there are a few long locks of it that fall loose over the course of the movie). It does a good job hinting at how old she really is- Elizabeth was already dead for 90 years and fashion had moved on by the opening of the movie, so Winnie’s hair is out of date even for 1693.
  • Witch Classic: Let's see... three murderous witches who sold their soul to the devil, fly on brooms and live in Salem? Fits pretty well.
    • Each of the sisters represent a different aspect of the myth of the witch. Winifred is the typical Wicked Witch crossed with the Vain Sorceress, an ugly, petty and narcissistic witch turning people into animals, owning a grimoire of dark magic, resurrecting the dead and brewing potions to steal children's life force. Sarah is the sex-obsessed Hot Witch with hints of the succubus and siren legends. Mary is more of a Fairy Tale witch, a foolish cannibal cook able to smell children a la Hansel and Gretel, and with a hairdo shaped like a typical witch hat.
  • Witch with a Capital "B": Winnie does this in a nod to Elton John during "I Put a Spell on You"; see Shout-Out.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Sanderson sisters drain Emily's life and intend to do so with all the children of Salem.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe:
    • The Sanderson sisters, and Thackeray and Emily Binx, and the rest of the Salem townsfolk in 1693. By the time of the main narrative, 300 years later, Binx no longer talks like that, presumably because he was influenced by the change around him in the English language over time. The witch sisters have not because they've been dead all this time.
    • Played with on the bus:
    Sarah: Thou wouldst hate me in the morning.
    Bus Driver: No I wouldn'st!
    Sarah: Come little children, I'll take thee away.note 
  • You Are Too Late: The angry mob that comes for the witches arrives after Emily is dead and Thackery has been turned into a cat. Mr. Binx, their father, has the pleasure of finding Emily's desiccated corpse in the cottage, and can only angrily ask the witches where his son is. They refuse to answer, even after being threatened with the gallows. Mr. Binx can at least avenge his children by hanging the witches, but he's unaware of the black cat trying to reach out to him.
  • You Can Talk?: Max's first words to Binx the talking cat.
  • You Just Had to Say It: When Winifred plots revenge against Dani:
    Winifred: I want to get that little rat-faced kid that called me—
    Mary: Oh, don't say it, don't even say it.
    Sarah: Ugly? [The Sanderson sisters groan and then laugh]
  • You Need a Breath Mint:
    • When Billy insults Winifred, Max gets a whiff of his breath and almost loses his lunch.
    Max: Say what you want, just don't breathe on me!
    • It's also relevant to Max's first run-in with Jay and "Ice".
    Ice: Gee, we don't get any smokes from you. We don't get any cash. What am I supposed to do with my afternoon?
    Max: Maybe you could learn to breathe through your nose.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: For a little while, it seems that the witches have been cooked in the school kiln. But Binx is still a cat, and the parents are still dancing to death in the city hall. The witches were dead, but it didn't stick.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Averted; it's just one zombie and he's not exactly evil.
  • Zombie Gait: Billy's silly zombie stumble.



Video Example(s):


"I Put a Spell On You"

The Sanderson Sisters sing "I Put a Spell On You" to bewitch a crowd of people.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

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