Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Special: Hocus Pocus

If you had told me five weeks ago that I would miss writing this blog, I wouldn't have believed you. In part, this was because watching the worst people on earth self indulge for two hours each week was slowly destroying the part of my brain responsible for processing empathy, but also because this is hard work. I know I make this look effortless (with the constant typos and half thought out ideas) but in actuality it takes about six hours a night to write one of these, give or take how much I've been drinking. All that being said I really did miss it. Therefore in keeping up with tradition, here is me writing about something dumb.

You all remember Hocus Pocus right? If you do, it's probably safe to assume that you loved this movie as a kid. Well guess what? Everyone was stupid as a kid, and this movie is insane.

I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. The movie open in Salem Massachusetts in 1693 during the height of the witch trials. We see a young man dressed in the laziest 17th century outfit looking for his sister, and already I am going to have to stop right there. Without looking it up, do you remember what this guy's name is? It's Thackery. Not Zackery or even Zachary, but fucking Thackery. That's not even a real first name. Want to know how I know that? First, I'm not stupid. Second, the only result you get when Googling "Thackery" is Hocus Pocus. doesn't even recognize it as a first name. Are you shitting me Disney? How did this even get past the second draft? Unless everyone else in the movie has a lisp or is Sylvester the Cat, that name is completely unacceptable.

I like him better as a cat.

Thackery (God I hate that name) loses his sister or some shit and goes looking for her in the woods. Turns out his sister got taken captive by witches (the Sanderson Sisters) who are in the process of trying to steal her youth when he arrives. Thackery pulls some standard hero bullshit, runs in to save his sister, and gets Emperor Palpatine'd by Bette Midler. The three witches then try to decide what to do with him, which consists of standard witch things like "steal his youth," "boil him alive," and "hang him from the ceiling and play with him." Yeah, you read that right. Sarah Jessica Parker's character (conveniently named Sarah) wants to string this kid up by his thumbs and diddle him, which is debatably a little too John Wayne Gacy-esque for a kids movie. I say debatably only because this script passed a director. editor, and multiple studio executives with no problem so clearly some people think that's OK.

Unfortunately this is a recurring theme for SJP, whose entire character seems to be just a sexy bonobo willing to fuck anything that moves. Early on, it is established that she apparently has a thing for 16 year old boys after trying to grab both Thackery and Max by the crotch. This is creepy enough (and not in a fun Halloween way) on its own, but made worse by her later in the movie summoning hundreds of small children to their shack in the woods. To sum up the character in three words would be to say "sexy child molester," where sexy describes the molester and not the children.

Basically Mary Kay Letourneau

I also Googled "sexy horse" looking for a picture. DO NOT GOOGLE "SEXY HORSE"

Let me try not to get too off track here and stay close to the story line. For some reason the worst punishment the three sisters can devise for Thackery is to turn him into an immortal cat, which isn't even in my top 5 list of worst punishments. The town somehow finds out that these witches are responsible for the death and disappearance of two children, and decides to hang them. It's rare to find a pro Salem Witch Trials movie out there, but I'll be damned if Hocus Pocus isn't willing to make a stand and say the religious weirdos who hung witches were right. Well done!

The hanging scene is especially brutal to watch. Not because of any graphic violence, but instead because the dialogue is almost unbearable. The townspeople slide in and out of "old timey" accents like they all just got hired a week ago at Colonial Williamsburg. At one point while the witches sing some sort of siren song intended for who knows what, one citizen yells out "Don't listen to them!" Immediately following this, another yells out "Listen to them not!" You can't have it both ways, just pick a terrible accent and stick with it.  

Thou dost haveth a truely authentic experience of riding on paved roads and not dying of consumption.

The witches are hanged, meaning four people have died in the first 10 minutes of this children's movie, so take that for what is is. The movie then cuts to a "modern day" aka 1993 high school classroom, where a a teacher has just finished telling the above story. In what is perhaps the most unbelievable moment of the movie, the students are listening with rapt attention to a story they have surely heard 100 times. Was this movie written by someone who never lived as a teenager? There is no way that classroom would be filled with anything but eye rolls.

There is one teenager who doesn't buy into the story, a new kid from California named Max. Max doesn't believe in witches, and is ridiculed by his fellow students and even his teacher for his "laid back California tie dye lifestyle." That sentence is actually the only character development we get for Max throughout the movie, since his actual tie dye shirt and stupid face actually prove the teacher's stereotype true. By the way, his reaction to being ridiculed is to ask out the prettiest girl in class by saying "In case Jimi Hendrix shows up tonight, here's my number." I suppose he means that Jimi Hendrix is a ghost now so he might show up on Halloween, but this really makes no sense. No one was talking about ghosts, guitar players, or overdoses. This really sounds like a line he practiced in the mirror, and just shoe horned into the conversation in a panic.

What a dumb face.

Before we go on, I want to make one point. The movie posits two histories of Halloween, both of which are wrong. Max says that the holiday was invented by candy companies, which I think was intended to be stupid and if so, succeeded. Allison (the aforementioned cute girl from class) corrects him by saying that Halloween actually comes from All Hallows Eve, which is like saying that Mardi Gras comes from Fat Tuesday. They are the same thing. In reality it comes from the Celts and is based on the festival of Samhain, or "summer's end." Now granted, I was able to use Wikipedia to find that out, but I can't believe this information didn't exist in 1993.

Anyways, Max gets turned down by Allison and then rides his bike home. On his way back he gets stopped in the cemetery by two cartoons of humanity in Jay and Ice. I wonder if when this was written, anyone knew how funny these two would become. It's as if they took seven or eight 90's stereotypes ranging from Run DMC to Nirvana and just mashed them into two people. These two act like general idiots and then steal Max's "cross trainers."

Max finally gets home sans-cross trainers and as a means of coping with the minutes old assault he just endured, starts humping a pillow in his bed while thinking of Allison. Just as the pillow is approaching climax, his sister jumps out to scare/surprise/ensure a lifetime of therapy for Max. The entire traumatizing moment was brought about because Max was supposed to take her trick-or-treating, but now doesn't want to. Within 30 seconds Dani (his sister) convinces him to go with her though... so... that was an interesting conflict.

The face of someone who just saw their brother fucking a pillow.

Eventually the two go trick-or-treating and after what feels like too much time spent watching a brother and sister walk through neighborhoods, they end up at Allison's house. Allison's parents are hosting a Halloween Masquerade Ball, and not a costume party like one would expect. The ball is pretty odd too, considering it looks more like a colonial Eyes Wide Shut party than literally anything else. Amidst this odd setting, Dani tells Allison that her brother likes Allison's "yabos." For some reason Allison doesn't find this to be the weirdest thing in the world and agrees to go to the Sanderson Sister's house. Don't ask me how they even got there in the conversation, because I honestly couldn't tell you. All I know is these three weirdos are going to the house.

The Sanderson Sister''s house has since been turned into a museum, but for some reason still has cobwebs everywhere because apparently the night crew hasn't been pulling their weight. Max tries to show what a badass he is and lights the black candle, which according to legend will summon the sisters if lit by a virgin on Halloween. Max, being the right virgin in the right place at the right time, promptly brings the three witches back from the dead, thereby setting himself up for the first of many virgin jokes.

Because being a virgin at 16 is CRAZY!

The three sisters come back from the dead and immediately try to fuck shit up. There's SJP as we mentioned before, with Better Middler and Kathy Najimy as the other sisters. Middler is awesome as always, but Kathy Najimy... what the hell? Her character was some sort of combination between Porky Pig, Carl Spackler, and Bells Palsy. I've always like Najimy from both Sister Act and King of the Hill, but this character was just insane. There's playing the stupid sidekick, and then there is the over the top, borderline demented character she was playing here. Too much Kathy. Too much.

As the sisters attack the children they are stopped by Binx, who is actually Thackery but changed his name because he's a dumb talking cat. As the children escape, they steal the Sanderson's spell book, which they need to raise the dead and steal the youth of all children. In essence this entire movie is a prolonged Three Stooges skit, and like the Three Stooges, isn't all that entertaining.

Larry, Curly, and Sarah Jessica Parker

The children run through the crypt to escape as the Sanderson Sisters follow. At one point the witches raise a zombie named Bill from the dead who chases the children into an underground crypt. After losing the children and their brooms, the sisters find themselves on a bus and weirdly don't lose their minds. I know they are magical and all, but wouldn't seeing a bus move on its own raise at least a couple questions? Props to the bus driver though who had the best line of the movie. When told "we desire children," he responds with "it may take me a couple of tries, but I think I can help." Bravo. Again, kids movie.

While escaping from the witches, Binx/Thackery gives more backstory to the children before suddenly being hit by a bus.The children cry over this as if it was their own mother that just died, and not a talking cat they had known for 15 minutes. In any case, it doesn't matter because the cat can't actually die. Within a few seconds it reinflates and the story moves on. So there you go everyone, don't get too invested in anything because none of it actually matters.

Wouldn't be upset if the cat actually died.

Across town, the Sanderson Sisters are looking for their spell book when they stumble upon a house decorated to look like Hell and an old man dressed up as Satan. The women are so stupid and/or behind the times, that they think Gary Marshall in a $25 costume is actually the Prince of Hell. Either way, they were adaptive enough to learn how to drive a bus (in SJP's case) but too stupid to realize that Hell isn't located in a two story colonial house in suburban Massachusetts. Equally confusing was Marshall inviting these three strange women into his home so that he could slow dance with one of them. I assume he wanted to have sex with one of these women? That would have been difficult considering his wife (Penny Marshall) was in the room with them. All in all this was a weird scene.

Fleeing from the witches, Max, Allison, and Dani go to the Halloween Dance where the Dennison parents are. The Sanderson Sisters show up and in an attempt to gain the help of the townspeople, Max announces to everyone at the dance that there are witches present. In unison, everyone at the dance laughs at him. What the fuck? Earlier that day he was mocked by locals for NOT believing in witches, and now he is laughed at for the opposite? What is the prevailing wisdom in the town? Do they just hate Californians? I know I hated that sketch.

To distract the townspeople, the three sisters break out into a rendition of "I Put a Spell on You," which I always enjoy. While it is a great song, there is no reason why the sisters should have known the lyrics. I'm beginning to think whoever wrote this movie forgot to do a second pass and figure out exactly how much these witches know. First they are driving buses, then they're mistaking elderly directors for Satan, then they are performing catchy renditions of classic songs. It's all over the map.

Here are some amazing versions of "I Put a Spell on You" to help everyone get in the mood for Halloween in lieu of a picture.

CCR (My favorite)

The children flee the witches and run into their high school. Somewhat craftily, they lure the witches into the basement and then into a kiln. Once inside the children burn the witches alive. Again. This is a kids movie. Three adult women were just burned to death and the response from the children is to go home and take a nap. That is the behavior of a sociopath, not a 16 year old on a date.

Of course this attempted triple homicide plan doesn't work, because THEY ARE FUCKING WITCHES. Why would that work? Max, Allison, and Dani know how to be rid of the witches because they are the ones who brought them back by reading the spell book. Instead they improvise an unrelated plan and just assume it will work. That's horror movie 101 kids. Do exactly what the mystic book says if you want to be rid of the antagonist. Your own plan will not work. Haven't you seen Halloween, The Exorcist, The Ring, Nosferatu, or even Scary Movie? They really should know better,

Even Indy knows to pay attention to the mystical book.

Allison, believing the witches are dead, decides it is suddenly a good idea to read from their spell book. This goes back to the previous point so I won't harp on it, but man was this dumb. Immediately the witches are alerted to their presence and fly to the Dennison house. Just before Max and Allison are about to kiss for the first time, the sisters storm in and take both Dani and Max. See everyone? Sexual feelings only lead to bad things. Don't ever let your guard down because if you do, there is evil waiting to destroy everything you've worked for.

This message brought to you by the Catholic Church.

Like Thackery before him, Max bursts in to the Sanderson's house in an ill conceived attempt to save his sister. This time, his plan is to trick the witches into believing that daylight savings time is in effect and have Allison shine truck lights through the house windows, convincing the sisters that morning has risen and their time to harvest children is up. Setting aside the fact that this is essentially an occult placebo, daylight savings time wasn't even a term until 200 years after the Salem Witch Trials, so it's weird that this got any reaction at all. But then again, they drive buses so...

The children return to the graveyard where they are confronted by the zombie Billy (remember him?) who is randomly now helping them. Apparently the only reason they didn't realize this before was his sewn shut mouth, not the fact that he was wildly swinging at their heads and chasing them like a fucking zombie. I swear, whoever edited this script should have been fired because this entire film is one random thought after another.

I think this is a WWE zombie? If so, that's awesome.

Look. I don't have the strength to describe the children getting the better of the Sanderson Sisters for the umpteenth time, so I'll just say this. The witches catch Max who drinks the potion, but is saved from death by the sunrise. The witches explode into nothingness and Thackery Binx gets to not be a cat anymore. Essentially this movie is the same basic scene six times over. That would be ok if the story were moving forward, but it is essentially stuck at "witches chase bitches," throughout.

Honestly I remember liking this movie a lot more as a kid. It could be the mindless storyline, or easy plot, or even historical context (I read The Crucible a lot as a child) that drew me to this, but I definitely loved this movie as a kid. Of course if you read anything I just wrote this movie did not hold up for me, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, seeing elements of your childhood exposed before you is sincerely depressing. Of course realizing this is freeing in a way. Personally, I do not want to hold on to childlike things because they are childlike. Instead I would like to look at those things, recognize their place and appreciate them for the role they played in my life.

Unfortunately, I can't do either of these things. Like most people, looking at things I used to love fills me with both a heavy melancholy and significant joy for the way I used to be. There isn't really an answer to this dilemma beyond its recognition, but in a way I think that is enough. Those impossible questions are best saved for when we are all dead.

Thanks for reading,

Gossip Squirrel

No comments:

Post a Comment