’90s Nostalgia Has Gone Amuck—and Hocus Pocus Is at the Sloppy Bottom of It All

Trick or treat, smell my feet, why do gays love these 90 minutes of Bette Midler yes and'ing herself?

Gather round, and let me tell you the scariest story I know… September 1, 2005, was just another day for Shelly Miscavige—no, no, you’re right. Too scary.

How about the one in which a fractured nation comes together every year for 31 days to sit through aged-out twinks performatively reliving their community-theater glory days online, endlessly quoting, karaoke’ing, and generally exalting a spooky kids movie with a spiderweb-thin plot and a lead who showed up ready to PnP?

Yes, I’m talking about Hocus Pocus, the 1993 box office flop that consists of one-and-a-half hours of Bette Midler yes and’ing herself, Sarah Jessica Parker auditioning for Hex and the City, and Kathy Najimy mumbling whatever Bette just said. It starts with child murder and a young Sean Murray (??) doing a sort of Medieval mid-Atlantic accent with a side of quaaludes. Rousing! 

For every virtue this hack-o-lantern of a film has, there’s plenty of vice. Oh wait, was that the doorbell? Kids are out trick or treating THIS early? In Boyle Heights? Let’s see who we have…

“Trick or treat, JT! Hocus Pocus has great songs and even better performances! It’s a mini-musical for the whole family!” 

Oh, Timothée Chalamet? Really? You’re wrong. Per usual! “Come Little Children” is Pure Moods for sex offenders, an atonal theme performed by a room fan set to low with a slide whistle stuck in the middle.

“I Put a Spell on You” is fun, I’ll give you that, but there’s no way a rendition sung by an actual witch should be less spooky than the original, which was performed by a possessed Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Midler sounds like Adele covering Nine Inch Nails.

Now take these bite-size Snickers I stole from the clinic lobby. Who’s this coming up the walk?

“Trick or treat! The costume and set design are top tier, and the special effects are ahead of their time!”
Oh, I’m sorry, Tom Holland, I thought you were dressed as a pirate but clearly that eye patch is less “costume” and more “medically necessary.” You’re blind, bitch! 

First off, I’m pretty sure ghosts don’t just look like humans set to 60 percent opacity. Like, I get it, but at least Casper had the decency to brand himself a bit: He’s a Tootsie Roll dressed as a Klan member, what’s not to love?

Second, the witches’ hideaway looks less Waverly Place and more “the old creepy costumer who responded to my Craigslist ad 10 years ago, kept calling my dick a ‘honker,’ and kissed like an arthritic frog.” But seriously, would it have killed them to toss some more cobwebs in that joint? 

Third, the graveyard set pieces look like they fell off a Party City truck and got sautéed in dirt. I know Styrofoam when I see it, Disney! I grew up poor! 

I’m running kinda low on candy here. Uh, take these unripe bananas. Potassium is good for the brain! And girl, you need it! Wow, people really love telling me how much they love this movie. Here come more fans!

“Trick or treat! It’s a movie both kids and adults can enjoy, rife with tongue-in-cheek humor and top-tier slapstick!”
Look, Ben Platt, Mr. Bean this is not! This is like a drag show where the queens get paid in shots: a messy, undercooked catastrophe filled with sassy jokes that don’t land, dry wigs, and heterosexual makeup. Vinessa Shaw, aka, Keira NOTley, is the one bright spot in the trio, and she’s billed beneath a hapless virgin! How did they get Garry Marshall for this anyway? 

Take this DVD of Mean Girls 2, it’s much scarier. 

“Trick or treat! Bette Midler is a revelation! What a funny, irreverent performance from an artist in the prime of her career!” 

You’re getting coal at the end of this diatribe, Finn Wolfhard. I for the life of me can’t tell where Rami Malek’s performance in Bohemian Rhapsody ends and Bette’s queen-of-the-circuit-party performance begins. I’m overwhelmed! 

There’s stealing the show and then there’s swallowing your co-stars entirely, a puckering black hole not seen since Bob the Drag Queen. By the end it feels like a punishment, an endurance test only Armond Rizzo could survive, 12 metaphorical inches of Grinch cosplay and spittle. You will need a nap! 

At this point, the only thing I have left is a hot, half-drank Gatorade. Oh, you want that? Now it’s all starting to make sense. 

The one redeeming quality of this cult classic—more Heaven’s Gate, less Rocky Horror—is this Madonna look. This works for me. 

Now run home children, I have to meet a stranger from Jack’d in the shadows of a condemned basketball court.

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