By Angela Rairden
Hello, Frankie’s Fans! October is upon us, which means that the Frankie’s blog is going to get even spookier than it usually is. Expect a month of horror comic reviews, mysterious tales, witchy magic, and things that go bump in the night!
Since it’s still early in the month, I thought that I would start readers off with something a little less horrifying and a little more campy cute nostalgic. On September 30th, Disney + released Hocus Pocus 2, the long-anticipated sequel to 1993’s cult classic Hocus Pocus. Debuting nineteen years after the original film, Hocus Pocus 2 introduces some new characters while also bringing back some very familiar older ones.
Set once again in Salem, Massachusetts, the film starts out by revealing a bit of the previously unknown past of the notorious Sanderson sisters. Born in the sixteen hundreds, It’s revealed that the three sisters have been living alone since the death of their parents and that the eldest, Winifred (portrayed by Taylor Henderson), has just turned sixteen and is therefore is expected to marry a boy named John Pritchett. When Winifred scandalizes the town by both refusing the marriage and using the Lord’s name in vain (twice!), Reverend Traske decrees that Winifred is to be banished from Salem and that her two younger sisters, Mary (Nina Kitchen) and Sarah (Juju Journey Brener), are to be placed in the care of someone else.
Kitchen, Henderson, and Brener as the young Sanderson sisters
Unable to bear being separated from her sisters, Winifred flees with them into the Forbidden Wood, smartly knowing that Reverend Traske and the rest of the townsfolk won’t dare to follow them there. It’s here, with the moon looming ridiculously large in the background, that the Sanderson sisters meet the Mother Witch (Hannah Waddingham), whom at first desires to eat the girls until she discovers the raw, untrained power that Winifred possesses. Instead of making a snack of them, the Mother Witch produces the infamous Book from thin air and gifts it to Winifred. Which is very kind of her but also seemed a little odd to me given that she had just met the girl. Still, she leaves Book with Winifred but not before cautioning her to never attempt a spell called Magicae Maxima, which makes the spellcaster all powerful.
Waddingham as the Mother Witch
Now, in 2022, a trio of high school girls have grown up immersed in the magical history of Salem. It’s Halloween and Becca (portrayed by Whitney Peak) is preparing to celebrate her sixteenth birthday the way that she has celebrated her birthdays – with scary movies, snacks, and a little witchy ritual in the woods with her two best friends. Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) is excited to help her celebrate; however, the third friend in their group, Cassie Traske (Lilia Buckingham), has become estranged after she started dating a popular football player and acting “too good” for her former besties.
Cassie, Becca, and Izzy
When Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of the local magic shop and big Sanderson sister history buff, provides Izzy with a seriously ugly handmade candle to help in their ritual, Becca and Izzy don’t think any of it and ride out on their bikes to their little spot in the woods. Seated on the ground and with the moon once again looming ridiculously large in the background, the two friends light the candle and begin their ritual…only to discover that the candle Gilbert has provided them with is none of than a Black Flame Candle!
Because a virgin has once again lit a Black Flame Candle during a full moon, the winds pick up and the ground cracks open and the familiar Sanderson sisters spring forth, revived yet again (and looking fantastic, by the way!)!
Richardson as Gilbert with Book
For some reason (probably just that it’s a Disney movie), the Sanderson sisters immediately break into song and dance, performing a song titled “The Witches Are Back”. What I did appreciate, however, was when Becca says aloud “Why are they performing for???” because, of course, that’s exactly what I had been wondering.
Seeing Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker reprise their roles as Winifred, Mary, and Sarah nearly thirty years after they originally portrayed these characters made the movie for me. Were parts of it cheesy? Yes, of course. Were there dancing and singing performances that seemed out of place or unnecessary (such as when the sisters cover a Hocus Pocus 2 version of “One Way or Another”). Well, yes. However, I think it’s important to remember that this movie wasn’t made for adults. The fans of the originals are in our late thirties or early forties now, and most have kids, and I feel that this sequel was really made for the next generation of Hocus Pocus fans, not geared towards adults specifically. Still, despite the issues mentioned, I did find it to be and adorable and fun film overall.
Furthermore, Hocus Pocus 2 casts two BIPOC as two of the name characters (Becca and Izzy), as well as Sam Richardson (a Black man) as Gilbert. I think representation in film is great and important and I appreciated the casting choices. Also, one issue I’ve personally always had with the original film is the concept of the witches being “bad”, and this sequel demonstrates that witches, even the Sanderson sisters, aren’t actually villains.
Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson
Beyond that, I’ve done some reading about how this film even came into being and it’s clear from everything I’ve seen that we have Bette Midler to thank for it. For years, she has said in multiple interviews that she was shocked to learn how beloved the original had become and that she wanted to make a sequel for the fans. It took a long time for Hocus Pocus 2 to become a reality, but the fact that Midler, Najimy, and Parker (as well as Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson) were all willing to reprise their roles says a lot. And if you look close enough, you’ll see that there are Easter eggs and throwbacks to the original intentionally littered throughout the entire film, even down to Cassie wearing a tie-dye shirt in reminiscence of Max’s shirt in the original.
Screenshot from the Instagram of Salvador Perez, the costume designer for "Hocus Pocus 2"
Finally, the movie leaves room at the end for there to be even another installment of Hocus Pocus magic. Whether or not it will contain any of the original actors remains to be seen but, you never know.
Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store as a floral manager, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.