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Content Caution

Hocus Pocus 1993


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Sarah Rasmussen

Movie Review

[Note: Hocus Pocus is being rereleased in theaters Oct. 6, 2023, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, prompting our review here.]

On Halloween, the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts, spread tales about the legendary curse of the Sanderson Sisters.

Exactly 300 years ago, sisters Winifred, Sarah and Mary Sanderson brewed a potion that would restore their youth. To complete this special witch’s brew, the sisters kidnapped a little girl. Although the girl’s older brother, Thackery Binks, attempted to save her, the Sanderson Sisters forced the child to drink their potion, which allowed the witches to suck out her life-force.

And after they regained their youth (and killed the child), they transformed Thackery into a black cat for good measure. Unfortunately, while Winifred, Sarah and Mary cackled in celebration, the villagers surrounded their house and captured the sisters.

But before the witches hung for their crimes, Winifred summoned her magic book and cast a curse on Salem: “On All Hallows Eve when the moon is round, a virgin will summon us from under the ground.”

If a virgin were to light Winifred’s Black Flame Candle under these circumstances, the Sanderson Sisters would come back to life.

Enter Max Dennison.

Max rolls his eyes when the town’s residents gush about these infamous Sanderson Sisters. According to his peers, Max’s skepticism and “California, laid-back, tie-dyed point of view” have no place in Salem. And Max has no problem remaining an outsider.

That is until he meets his classmate, Allison. “This is the girl of my dreams,” Max asserts.

As Max and his little sister, Dani, go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, they run into Allison. Hoping to impress his crush, Max suggests they sneak into the Sanderson Sisters’ house. “Make a believer out of me,” he prods.  

Once inside the ancient home of the Sanderson Sisters, Max finds and lights the Black Flame Candle. “It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus,” he claims.

Max was wrong.

Now the witches are back. And it’s up to Max, Dani and Allison to save Salem.

Positive Elements

Beneath the slapstick humor and over-the-top antics in this “cult classic,” Hocus Pocus’ primary message speaks to the value of sibling relationships.

Both Thackery and Max care deeply for their sisters. Thackery mourns his inability to save his sister, and he encourages Max to value his time with Dani. Both brothers go to great lengths to protect their little sisters, even displaying sacrificial love for them.

While Max and Dani engage in typical sibling rivalry, they genuinely do care for one another. When they bicker, Max acknowledges when he crosses a line, and the two have a sweet relationship.

Spiritual Elements

Hocus Pocus features witches flying on broomsticks, magical spells and occult references, which are all approached with comedic levity that tries to minimize those darker spiritual roots.

Much of the plot is directed by the witches’ desire to make a potion and suck the lives out of children. To lure children to their home, Sarah sings an enchanting melody. Accordingly, we see children walk in dreamlike trances when they are affected by her spell. Meanwhile, Mary uses her superhuman olfactory power to sniff out hidden children.

The witches cast spells throughout the movie. In one scene, the witches transform a teenage boy into a cat. In another, Winifred casts a spell on a large group of people through song. These incantations involve chanting, swaying and the use of Winifred’s spell book. Legend says that the devil gave Winifred the book, and it contains the witch’s most evil spells. The sentient book answers Winifred’s call and possesses a magical eye.

Winifred, Sarah and Mary also brew a potion together. They mention grotesque ingredients, which include the blood of an owl, newt saliva and a dead man’s toe. When children are forced drink the potion, the witches inhale the life force from them. We witness this process, and watch as the witches become younger versions of themselves.

In one scene, the Sanderson Sisters see a man dressed as Satan (in his Halloween costume). The sisters rally around the man, referring to him as “master,” and they pledge their service to him. Similarly, when a character vulgarly tells Winifred to “go to h—,” she responds that she’s already been there and thinks it’s lovely.

When Max lights the Black Flame Candle, he summons the Sanderson Sisters back from the dead. And at one point, Winifred raises Billy Butcherson (an old lover) from the dead.

When Salem’s villagers captured the Sanderson Sisters 300 years prior, several of them held crosses to protect themselves from witchcraft. And when the witches come back from the dead, they scream in fright when encountered by a child dressed as an angel.

We see the ghost of a deceased character, and it claims, “My soul is finally free.”

Attempting to escape the Sanderson Sisters, Dani pretends to be a witch, and Max claims to wield magical powers. Allison attempts to use Winifred’s spell book, hoping to help one of her friends. Later, the witches refer to her as a “white witch.”

In several scenes, characters learn about witch folklore. We hear that witches cannot set foot on hallowed ground and that a circle of salt can protect individuals from witches.

Halloween is clearly a big deal in Salem. Adults and children alike dress in witch and devil costumes, and spooky decorations such as skeletons are scattered throughout the town. Max’s parents jokingly refer to “trick-or-treating” as the “bewitching hour.”

Sexual Content

For a movie originally marketed toward children, there’s an alarming abundance of sexual content here. Of course, the plot is predicated on a virgin lighting the Black Flame Candle. As such, we hear several references to the virginity of teenagers.

Sarah Sanderson makes sexual references throughout the movie. In two separate instances, Sarah says that she wishes to “play” with some individuals – both of whom are teenage boys. While this double entendre isn’t blatantly sexual, the intent seems clear.

We also learn that Sarah had slept with a man who used to be Winifred’s lover, and one scene features Sarah dancing with a married man. At a Halloween party, Sarah kisses a random party guest. And when the witches meet a flirty bus driver, Sarah ends up sitting on his lap. Meanwhile, the bus driver flirts with all the witches, making sexual suggestions.

After he meets Allison, Max cuddles with his pillow while he mumbles her name. Later, Max and Allison cuddle, eventually falling asleep on one another. In another scene, the teenagers share an intimate moment in which they almost kiss.

Dani refers to breasts as “yabos,” and she claims that Max “loves” Allison’s “yabos.” On his bedside table, Max has a hula girl lamp, which features women in bikinis. At a party, Max’s mom wears a revealing costume that accentuates her figure. Later, some adults dance somewhat sensually at this party.

After a night of mischief, two bullies named Jay and Ice discuss the possibility of watching girls undress through their windows.

As characters walk through an art gallery, we see some statues with their bare backsides showing.

Violent Content

Winifred, Sarah and Mary seem to delight in inflicting pain on individuals. Winifred uses her lightning magic to shock Thackery and Max, and we see their pain-filled reactions. In one scene, Winifred uses her powers to lift Max highs into the air and then drops him.

The Sanderson Sisters repeatedly reference cannibalism—particularly eating children—and they have no problem with kidnapping and killing kids, either. We see the witches suck the life out of a little girl (which kills her), and they tie another small child to a chair. When one of their young victims attempts to escape, the witches grab her and attempt to physically harm her. The Sanderson Sisters place two teenage boys in cages, and Winifred attempts to choke Max.

Winifred killed Billy Butcherson by poisoning him and then sewing his mouth shut. When he resurrects from the dead, he resembles a macabre zombie with large stitches through his mouth. Several characters kick his head, disconnecting it from the rest of his body. We also see the tips of his fingers get chopped off, and later Billy cuts the stitches off of his own mouth (and bugs fly out).

While the Sanderson Sisters brew a potion, Winifred says that one of the ingredients is a bit of their own tongues. The witches bite off pieces of their own tongues and spit the severed chunks into their cauldron. Nothing graphic is shown, but we do see the witches make motions as if they were biting their tongues off. When her sisters annoy her, Winifred wallops or slaps them.

Several characters defend themselves against the witches by pushing or hitting them. In one scene, some characters get trapped in a kiln, and we hear them scream as the fire burns them alive. Dani bites Mary when she tries to feed her the potion. In the past, when the villagers had caught the Sanderson Sisters, we see ropes around their necks moments before they are hung. Later, we see the witches’ feet dangling.

As he runs in the woods, a character trips and falls down a hill, and in another scene, a cat attacks a character. We don’t see the impact, but we hear a bus run over a animal. Later, we see the cat’s silhouette flattened onto the road.

When Allison takes Max and Dani to the Sanderson Sisters’ home, she asserts that the bones of 100 children are buried beneath the house. Later, while they run from the witches, Allison, Dani, and Max go to a crypt where they see skeletons.

A woman dressed as a cowgirl wields fake guns.

Crude or Profane Language

Characters use “d–n” six times, and there are five misuses of God’s name and at least one use of “h—” that feels more profane than a reference to that spiritual destination. There are also three uses of “jerk,” and two uses each of “suck,” “idiot” and “airhead.” We hear single uses of “moron,” “gee,” “twerp,” “buffoon,” “heck” and “shut up.”

We also hear several creative insults such as “maggot museum” and “zit face.” In one scene, Billy calls Winifred a “wench” and claims that she is from hell. Max refers to his high school as “hell.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

For a brief moment, Max can be seen doodling a picture of a marijuana leaf in class. Later, Jay and Ice discuss smoking with Max, and they ask if he has anything to smoke. In another scene, a woman sits in her house while smoking and drinking.

When they attend a Halloween party, Max’s parents drink alcohol.

Other Negative Elements

Many characters refer to the Sanderson Sisters as “hags” and “ugly.” In one scene, Thackery tells Winifred that “there are not enough children in the world to make thee young and beautiful.” While these moments are largely played for laughs, Winifred seems genuinely hurt by the insults.

Town bullies, Jay and Ice, relentlessly taunt Max, eventually robbing him of his shoes. Later, they steal Halloween candy from children and throw toilet paper at a house.

Max and Dani engage in typical sibling bickering. In one scene, their verbal fight ends with Dani screaming at Max. Once Max tells Dani to get out of his life.

The witches’ interests are often grotesque. When the Sanderson Sisters participate in a “calming circle” (a ritual of sorts in which the sisters name items that calm them down), the items they identify include rats and the black death. Likewise, Sarah Sanderson plays with a “lucky rat tail,” and she consumes a spider she finds in some bushes.

Dani, Max and Allison illegally trespass onto private property when they sneak into the Sanderson Sisters’ house. Max’s bike ride home from school includes a leg through a cemetery.

A man wearing a Halloween costume impersonates a policeman. This scene is played for laughs.


Like many other Halloween “classics,” Hocus Pocus delivers a campy plotline that employs macabre humor.

These elements draw Halloween fans to rewatch the movie yearly. And some genuinely sweet messages about sibling relationships  seem sincere.

Apart from those occasionally nice family moments, though, Hocus Pocus is constructed on a foundation of dark spirituality, violence and sexual allusions. And while the film itself treats its wall-to-wall occult activity as a joke—even making fun of it at times—therein lies a major issue with the film.

Characters and situations jokingly reference many serious spiritual topics, such as raising people from the dead, murdering children and devil worship. But the film’s comedic intent arguably invites us to dismiss or minimize these significant spiritual concerns instead of thinking about them soberly from a Christian perspective. But no matter the angle a movie takes when referencing these topics, Scripture clearly instructs Christians to flee from all forms of evil—including flirtations with witchcraft.

Hocus Pocus may be beloved by some fans, enough to earn a theatrical rerelease in 2023. Still, its flighty and dismissive references to witchcraft, violence and sexuality deserve to be taken seriously, even as the filmmakers and stars mostly treat them as a grim joke.

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Sarah Rasmussen

Sarah Rasmussen is the Plugged In intern for Summer 2023.