Hocus Pocus is a 1993 Disney film about three witch sisters hung in Salem in 1693 for sucking the life-force from a little girl to restore the sisters’ youth. They also made her teenage brother Thackery Binx disappear. (The witches turned him into a black cat who would have to live forever with the guilt of not saving her.) Bette Midler, with a huge fake overbite, stars as the head witch, Winifred Sanderson. Sarah Jessica Parker plays her beautiful sister Sarah, while Kathy Najimy plays the obese, ever-hungry and not-too-astute Mary.
Unlike most Halloween movies, this one doesn’t require hiding your eyes. The witches (and even the zombie) are played for laughs. At one point the witches’ flying brooms are stolen, so they improvise. From a broom closet Winnie grabs a straw broom, and Sarah takes a mop. But Mary rises into the sky on an upright vacuum cleaner—trailing the cord behind her.
According to a prophecy in their spell book, hanging wasn’t necessarily the end for the sisters. They could return to life on an All Hallows Eve if a virgin lit a black flame candle in their home. Then they would have until dawn to suck the life-force from more children to live again.
In 1993 on Halloween, new teen in town Max Dennison has to take his young sister Dani trick or treating. When they happen to arrive at the home of Allison, Max’s love interest and classmate, he brags about not believing the story about the Sandersons their teacher had told them. He talks Allison into going to the old Sanderson home that had been a local museum until shut down. Once inside, Max shows off by lighting the black flame candle. Because he is a virgin, the floorboards start shaking and glowing and the three witches come back to life. They try to grab Dani, but Max sets off the automatic sprinklers and the kids escape. Binx (Thackery) the talking black cat helps them and tells them to take the book of spells with them to stop the witches from getting it.
The witches in their authentic 17th century outfits are able to roam the streets blending in with all the other disguised people. They search for the kids among the parents at a Halloween dance. When Max grabs the mic from the band singer and tells the crowd the real witches are there, Bette Midler thanks him for the introduction, takes the stage, and belts out a lively rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” with her sisters singing back-up. She then puts a “dance ’til you die” spell on the crowd.
In one scene after another, the witches catch up with the kids and/or the kids outwit the witches—even after the witches raise a zombie and set him on their trail. What is refreshing is that the kids stick together and help each other. They know if they can make it to sunrise, the witches will turn to dust. It’s not quite sunrise when Max shows he is willing to give his life to save his little sister. The three kids, Billy the zombie (who has switched to their side because Winnie had killed him), and Binx hold off the witches until sunrise puts an end to them and all their spells.
All horror movies have an antagonist; this one had three. But in Hocus Pocus Disney made them seem less treacherous. The Sanderson sisters with their Three Stooges type interaction cause us to laugh at them, despite knowing they came from hell (by their own admission) with the intention of stealing more children’s lives. Max, Dani, and Allison fight against supernatural beings without weapons. They can only hold on until the witches are destroyed by their own time limit.
Our non-fictional world doesn’t have real witches and zombies roaming the streets on Halloween or any other night. But there are more supernatural forces at work than most realize. In Mere Christianity Oxford professor (and former agnostic) C.S. Lewis wrote about “Christianity-and-water,” a diluted view that says since there is a good God in heaven, everything is all right. Those who hold that view ignore all the biblical truths about sin and hell and the devil. But Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 that Christians fight against things not of this earth, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
We, however, have been given weapons for this battle: the armor described in Ephesians 6:13-17. And we know that the Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Lewis wrote, “One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. . . . Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
He concluded that, as the Bible says, there will be an end to the world as we know it and a new world coming. The time to decide which side you’re on is now: “When you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others. . . For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side.”
©2017 by Vicki Huffman