When I was little my family and I had a little Hallowe'en tradition. We were never allowed to go out trick or treating - my parents just didn't approve - but my dad would get a pumpkin and help us carve it, we would get scary themed treats from Marks and Spencers (my favourites were ghost-shaped sweets and a chocolate skeleton jigsaw), and we'd have a huge picnic in front of the TV and watch scary movies. And by scary I mean what 8 year-old me found scary - Indiana Jones, Jason and the Argonauts and my particular favourite: Hocus Pocus. And by some wonderful chance yesterday evening I was messing around on youtube when I discovered the full movie online and rewatched it. And it was awesome.
The film tells the story of an eventful Hallowe'en night in the lives of Max and Danni Dennison, brother and sister who have recently been made to move from LA to the tiny and spooky town of Salem. When forced to take his little sister out trick or treating, Max breaks into an abandoned house said to have belonged to three evil witches and lights the Black Flame Candle in an attempt to impress his crush, Allison. Rather, he ends up unwittingly awakening said Sanderson Sisters and unleashing them upon the town of Salem and its children, whose life essence the witches must steal in order to stay immortal. It's pretty standard fare as far as a family Hallowe'en film goes, but what makes it such a great film is the energy, warmth and humour that goes into it. There are some great performances, particularly from Bette Midler as the villain of the piece - shrill, bad-tempered and with incredible dead-pan comic timing. Omri Katz (whatever happened to him?!) is also great as Max, playing the typical teenager without the usual dreaded angst and anger. The whole film pans out very tongue-in-cheek, complete with talking black cat, over-the-top costumes and a friendly zombie, but it's this that makes it so fresh and amusing, as opposed to try-hard and awkward. Plus it's just so cult and nostalgic, and such a comforting slice of childhood - like rewatching a Disney film after decades have passed. Although I did find aspects of it a little weird - I used to have the hugest crush on Max when I was little and now he looks like a child. God I hate growing up.