Hocus Pocus is one of those movies, objectively not great but beloved by a generation anyway. I was ten when Hocus Pocus came out, and if there had been fan fiction and message boards in 1993, I would have been all over it, my screenname undoubtedly “ThackeryBinx27”, and unspeakably bad fanfic, in which Dani and Thackery defeat the Sanderson sisters and then kiss, filling my hard drive. I still watch Hocus Pocus every year at Halloween. Before Harry Potter, before Practical Magic, before Sabrina the Teenage Witch—show, not comic—there was Hocus Pocus opening the door to our world, but with magic (which is my preferred alternate reality, by the way). Hocus Pocus is a touchstone like Goonies, like Stand By Me, like Titanic. Yes, it’s like Titanic, COME AT ME.
So of course, given our nostalgia-mad culture, Hocus Pocus has been the subject of sequel and remake rumors for years. Yesterday, Hocus Pocus screenwriter Mick Garris gave hope to the world when he said, “I have heard they are developing the script…I think there will be a sequel.” He thought it would be for Freeform or the Disney Channel. So, a made-for-TV movie, BUT STILL. Hocus Pocus 2 at last!
But wait. The world is dark and cruel, like Winifred Sanderson herself, and with the dawn comes clarity. That sequel Garris was talking about? Turns out, it’s a remake. The Disney Channel is going to remake Hocus Pocus without any of the original cast, and only one producer, David Kirschner, attached as an executive producer. Extra weird is that the original director, Kenny Ortega, has directed High School Musical and the Disney Channel’s villain-children movies Descendants and Descendants 2, yet he isn’t involved with their remake, either.
Obviously, this is a TRAVESTY. My exact words when site manager Emily emailed me the story were, “F*ck off with this sh*t.” Hocus Pocus sells out Halloween screenings. It remains popular on home video/streaming. Television replay has hooked a new generation of fans. There is fertile ground for a sequel, or even a spin-off—pre-Salem Sandersons, anyone?—but a remake? Who is asking for that? We want MORE Hocus Pocus, not RETREAD Hocus Pocus. Way to miss the point, Disney.
Remakes aren’t always a bad idea—see also: It—but it is in the case of Hocus Pocus. The magic of Hocus Pocus is—pardon the pun—the combination of its latent darkness and the look of the original. It’s from that era when special effects were still special—just good enough to make witches flying on brooms look good, but not so slick it takes away the charm of obvious craft. (In this way, it is like Titanic.) And then that cast—I cannot imagine who could ever top Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker as the Sanderson Sisters. Who is a better Dani than young Thora Birch, with her too-old eyes and little sister sneer? Disney will find perfectly acceptable kid-bots to perform on command, but that chemistry will never be recaptured.
And Disney, as it is today, is certainly not interested in the slyness, weirdness, and darkness at the center of Hocus Pocus. What makes that movie last, what draws new fans every year, is its perverse heart. Cannibalism, torture, sexuality—Hocus Pocus is a naughty kids’ movie. It takes the “casually negligent parents” trope common to kids’ movies and makes it explicit, and goes so far as to make parental neglect specifically about parents ignoring their children in favor of their own physical pleasure. The Sanderson sisters try to have an orgy with a guy dressed like the devil. The crux of the curse depends on a teenage boy admitting he’s a virgin. A young girl’s first crush is a CAT. Hocus Pocus is a weird f*cking movie, and there is no way Disney will let that much personality into their remake. A sanitized, corporatized, Disney Channel Hocus Pocus? Pass.