A 1993 Halloween-themed Disney film "for kids". This was the second film directed by Kenny Ortega, previously known for Newsies (1993). Now considered a cult favorite, the film's rather campy, but pretty entertaining. It does, after all, contain a memorable rendition of "I Put A Spell On You" by Bette Midler. The song "Come Little Children" from this film went on to become a Halloween classic.
The film opens in the year 1693. Thackery Binx (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 child/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, that "on All Hallows' Eve, when the moon is round, a virgin will summon us from under the ground."
The scene shifts to 1993. The Dennisons are a California family who have just moved to Salem, bringing along teenaged son Max (Omri Katz) and 8-year-old daughter Dani (Thora Birch). Max is a virgin. 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; Max laughs and tries it out, bringing the Sandersons back to life. Now the three kids and the immortal cat Binx have to face the witches throughout the night, with the lives of every kid in Salem at risk.
Midler claimed in a 2014 interview that she, Parker, and Najimy would be interested in playing the roles again if the producers asked. In 2015, she confirmed it was not going to happen.
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. 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 to the film, complete with a show stopping rendition of "I Put A Spell On You" as the finale.
While a 1994 side-scrolling platformer by the same name also exists, they don't have any connection to each other. Also unrelated is Kurt Vonnegut's 1991 novel of the same name.
A Novelization came out in July 2018, called Hocus Pocus And The All-New Sequel, containing the novelization of the film and the sequel story. The sequel focuses on Max and Allison's daughter, Poppy, who grew up hearing the family story 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 movie, in an attempt to prove there's nothing to the story.
This film provides examples of:
- 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 rats, which is what Thackery eats as a cat! Very squicky to the trio.
- Accidental Misnaming: In one 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.
- 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.
- Adult Fear:
- In Salem, Thackery wakes up when he hears a strange noise. He's about to settle back into bed when he realizes his sister Emily is missing. He runs outside in his bedclothes, calling for her and asking his neighbor where Emily may be.
- Magic aside, Mr. Binx loses two children in one night. He's lucky to find the body of one of them, which allows him to avenge her murder, but he can't find his son.
- Thanks to the witches later cursing the parents, dozens of children are left alone at night.
- All Hallows' Eve: The Black Flame Candle only works on this day, and once lit, will not last beyond this day.
- 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 There in the Manual: 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.
- 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 9 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."
- 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. As mentioned in Animal Motifs below, Mary's more like a dog.
- Alto Villainess: Winnie, with the voice of Bette Midler backing her up.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees:
- The Sanderson sisters are hanged, not burned, which is much more historically accurate to the fate of most of the Salem witches.
- A more subtle example occurs in the song, "Come, Little Children". While "thee" is most often treated as singular, it's also the correct pronunciation of the plural form "Þe", which modern typography renders as "ye". Said plural form was in use in 1693, though rapidly falling out of fashion.
- 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.
- And I Must Scream:
- God help any child who happens to hear Sarah's singing; they're forced to march to the witches' cottage, to drink a potion that makes their life force vulnerable, and die within seconds. Emily's blank expression before she dies is utter Nightmare Fuel.
- Ironically, This would have been Winnie's fate at the end, had she succeeded in draining Max's life force, having violated hallowed ground.
- 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.
- 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 barehands 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.
- 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 death.
- Mary is not much further better 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, he refuses, but takes the opportunity to take the 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.
- 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 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:
Your wretched little lives have all been cursed 'Cause of all the witches working I'm the worst. [...] Ask my sisters.(She's vicious!)
- 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:
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Died Happily Ever After: 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."
- Disney Villain Death: Max, Allison, and Dani hope to get rid of the Sanderson witches by locking them in a kiln and burning them to death, which fails since the Sandersons aren't set to expire until the break of dawn. Later on, in the cemetery, the Sandersons are vanquished when daylight finally breaks and they're turned into dust.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enthralling Siren: Sarah's gift is to lure children with haunting singing.
- Establishing Character Moment: Sarah's first appearance after being resurrected.Sarah: My lucky rat tail! Just where I left it!
Winifred: Ah, look. Another glorious morning. Makes me sick!
- Winifred's first line is also a pretty good character establisher.
- 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.
- Extremely Short Time Span: Except for the 1693 prologue, the entire movie takes place in the span of about sixteen hours.
- Eye Awaken: The book is alert at the end of the movie.
- Fake Wizardry: Max is able to scare the witches long enough to flee with his friends by convincing them 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 going on about Max's nonexistent sex life.
- 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.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: There's so much obvious sexual references being tossed out that it's like Machine Gun Fire Getting Past The Radar. From Disney of all companies!Winifred: We desire...children.
Bus Driver: Hey, it may take me a couple of tries, but I don't think there will be a problem.
Winifred: You know, I've always wanted a child. And now I think I'll have one... on toast!
- When the Sandersons are attempting to reproduce the potion:
- Max's virginity is a plot point. At the same time, he is, for some reason, constantly getting shamed and picked on for being a virgin... at sixteen. It's implied that the only reason Dani harps on him about it so much is because, like most of the kids her age watching the movie, she has no idea what it means, just that it's something bad (or, at least, something that irritates her brother).
- Sarah shamelessly flirts with every male she sees, and is likewise hit on by numerous men who leer at her. There's also her idea for what to do with Binx: "Hang him on a hook and let me play with him?" There's no possible way it was read so suggestively by accident.
- When Billy the zombie's fingers get smashed by the sewer lid (due to a motorcyclist riding over it), his middle finger extends upward.
- Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Sarah - the prettiest and most feminine of the sisters - is colour-coded with purple. As she's a witch, there's some overlap with Purple Is Powerful and Supernatural Is Purple.
- 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.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Winnie.
- 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!...st.
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.
- 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.
- HeelFace 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.
- 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.
- 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 him, 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: 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?!
- Contrast with Winifred's offense at Dani calling her "Ugly."
- 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.
- Infant Immortality: Averted in a Disney movie! The Sanderson sisters kill Emily.The Nostalgia Chick: First plot point, death of a child.
- Intellectual Animal: Binx can talk and knows a lot more about what's going on then anyone else.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 to 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: Bette Midler as Winifred is unquestionably the biggest one in the film.
- 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: 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!
- Loophole Abuse: "This is hallowed ground. Witches can't set foot here." What they can do is hover over it and reanimate a corpse.
- Magic Music: "Come Little Children" and "I Put a Spell on You" combine this with Compelling Voice. Both of them work magic through lyrics.
- 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 take her soul. Later, the witches capture a little girl named Dani, but she gets saved.
- 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: The Signature Scene has Winifred enchanting a town hall full of partygoers to literally dance themselves to death. Doubles as a memorable Villain Song too: "I Put A Spell On You."
- 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.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
Binx: (sarcastically) Nice going, Max.
- 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.
- 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.
- No Man Should Have This Power: When Max finds out how dangerous the 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.)
- 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". 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.
- 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.
- 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 her gravestone, 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".
- 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:
- "The Master" gives Clark Bar candy bars to the Sanderson sisters. They think they are chocolate covered fingers of a man named Clark.
- Also, while still at "the Master's" house, Mary turns on the TV and sees a commercial for DuPont Stainmaster with a running baby in it, and she gets ecstatic.
- 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!
- Redhead In Green: Winifred is the redhead in the trio of sisters and she's colour-coded with green.
- Reduced to Dust: The Sanderson Witches die this way when the power of the Black Flame Candle runs out.
- 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.
- 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").
- 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.
- Sanity Ball: Is 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: 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 Winnifred her spell book.
- Schmuck Bait: The candle that is said to bring back a trio of witches, if lit by a virgin during a full moon, is lit during Halloween. 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.
- 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 electrics blasts from her fingers.
- Shout-Out: During the "I Put a Spell on You" number, Winnie calls out, "Hello, Salem, my name is 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:
- 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.
- 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 the. And then she goes to the Sanderson house on a Halloween that coincides with a blood moon and ends up waking the Sanderson sisters himself.
- 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.
- Spoiled Sweet: Downplayed but Allison's parents are rich, with a Big Fancy House and she is a kind and sweet girl.
- 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.
- 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. 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 her, 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.
- Take Me Instead: Max drinks the potion to keep Winifred from force-feeding it to Dani. "What a fool to give up thy life... for thy sister's."
- Taken for Granite: Winifred. The result of her standing on hallowed ground while trying to steal Max's life.
- Talking Animal: Binx the talking cat.
- 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. They're actually very common names.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Undeath Always Ends: Thackery's cursed immortality at the end, along with his sister, who has apparently been a ghost for 300 years.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Actually subverted. Allison gets an idea of how to take out the witches, but does not explain it. We then see her plan in action, and it works...until it doesn't.
- 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 lives of at least one child, which would give them enough time to live at least past Halloween and make more, plus the spellbook 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 insure that she would live past the end of the night, then go after Dani.
- Villain Song:
"The witch is back, and there's hell to pay!"
- "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.
"Your wretched little lives have all been cursed 'Cause of all the witches working I'm the worst! [...] Ask my sisters."
- 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: Virgin is almost a synonym for idiot, and Max never lives it down.
- Virgin Power: A virgin can resurrect the witches. Probably only a virgin can.Max: (after feeling the room shake) What happened?
Dani: A virgin (referring to Max) lit the candle.
- Virgin-Shaming: The audience is reminded every five minutes that Max is one because no one can believe that a guy his age is still one.
- 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.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- What happened to the three girls who got 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.
- After the adults are mesmerized into dancing the night away, the viewers never learn what became of them after the Sandersons' deaths. Unless you see The Stinger, where they're shown leaving the party in an exhausted mass.
- 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.
- Witch Classic: Of the Wicked Witch type. Three of them sucking the souls out of little children.
- 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:
Sarah: Thou wouldst hate me in the morning.
- 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:
Bus Driver: No I wouldn'st!
Sarah: Come little children, I'll take thee away.note
- One egregious example:
- While "thee" is most often treated as singular, it's also the correct pronunciation of the plural form "Þe", which modern typography renders as "ye". Said plural form was in use in 1693, though rapidly falling out of fashion.
- 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 Max: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:
Max: Say what you want, just don't breathe on me!
- When Billy insults Winifred, Max gets a whiff of his breath and almost loses his lunch.
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.
- It's also relevant to Max's first run-in with Jay and "Ice".
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: For a little while, it seems that the witches have been cooked in the school oven. 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.