Belen Yudess ’25
Contains spoilers for Hocus Pocus 2
SIIIIISSSSTTTEEERRRSSS!! The witches are back! Hocus Pocus 2 premiered on Sept. 30 on Disney+. The sequel to the 1993 classic Hocus Pocus follows the Sanderson Sisters’ return to Salem, Massachusetts, this time facing 21st century technology and culture. The legendary leads of Winnie (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), along with their delightful musical numbers, promotion of Roombas, and immense sisterly bond ensured that this movie ran amok with success.
As many of my friends can attest, Hocus Pocus has definitely put a spell on my heart. The look of horror on my face when many of them told me they had never seen the classic could have given Thackery Binx a run for his money. Therefore, when I saw the sequel’s announcement earlier this year, I immediately sent it to them with a string of random capital letters expressing my excitement. After months of antici…pation (I know, wrong Halloween movie), I curled up on the Frankel living room couch with my suitemates to see what spells were in store.
The movie opens with a young Winifred Sanderson storming back to her cottage as her kid sisters Mary and Sarah await to celebrate the latter’s 16th birthday. The three are interrupted by Minister Traske (Tony Hale) who wants Winnie to agree to her arranged marriage. Winnie refuses which causes the Minister to attempt to separate the sisters. To avoid this fate, the sisters escape into the forbidden woods where they run across “Mother” witch. Mother gifts the girls with Book (a living spell book), warns them against the Magicae Maxima spell, and reminds the sisters that they are stronger together.
Although the sisters are given plenty of comedic dialogue within the first movie, they are mainly depicted as vain child-eating murderers. By giving them a backstory, the Sanderson women are painted in a new light. Their ultimate goal is to protect and be with one another. The movie in no way shies away from their devotion to their devious or witchcraft ways — and that’s a good thing. They are not meant to be traditional heroes or role models. Winnie, Mary, and Sarah never stray away from their true selves; this is their “villain” origin story, but it is meant to be empowering, not sympathetic. Although this flashback also reveals why the Sanderson sisters started stealing the souls of children (warning: ordering a Bowl of Soul will never be the same), it primarily shows the love rooted within their relationship.
The film then jumps to Halloween day, 2022 in Salem. Echoing the Sanderson Sisters intro, high schoolers Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) prepare to celebrate Becca’s 16th birthday. Unlike the original movie, whose main protagonist and favorite virgin, Max Dennison, was a skeptic of all things mystical, Becca and Izzy embrace the magic of the season. The two teenagers, along with their ex-friend Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), usually spend Halloween performing a birthday ritual for Becca.
The dynamic between Becca, Izzy, and Cassie allows younger viewers who may not be familiar with the original movie to form a connection to the characters. Cassie has drifted away from the former two in favor of her new boyfriend Mike, who unknowingly insults Becca and Izzy by commenting on their inclination towards magic. This plotline provides a modern-day perspective into an otherwise fantastical story.
To prepare for the evening, Becca and Izzy head over to a magic shop, where they receive a special candle. The two decide to light the candle, which turns out to be everyone’s favorite virgin-shaming Black Flame candle: the only tool that can bring the Sanderson Sisters back to life. To avoid being the Sister’s appetizers, Becca and Izzy convince the three that they are also witches, and take them to the prime place to shop for beauty creams infused with the souls of children: Walgreens! Walgreens: the home for all of your cannibalistic tendencies, *sponsored by Armie Hammer.*
The Walgreens scene is not only a cauldron of laughter, but it also shows how fast technology and cultural knowledge changes. During the first film, the witches were exposed to a lot of current innovations (for the 90’s) such as automated vehicles, television sets, and fire alarm systems. Although it is only a 20 year difference, the Sisters’ confusion about the Amazon Alexa (the modern witch) and Roombas (which Mary adopts as her broom and children) reflects the feelings of a majority of the older generation. It can be very hard to keep up with today’s ever-evolving advancements, especially if you were born when the word “thou” was a part of the daily vernacular.
Winnie later realizes that the only way to ensure the Sister’s survival is to perform the Magicae Maxima spell, which requires the blood of one’s enemy. After a scuffle involving a themed drag contest, Roombas, and salt, Becca’s powers are ignited, revealing that she too is a witch. Becca and Izzy save Cassie, and obtain Book. Book reveals that by inducting the spell, Winnie will lose the things she loves most: her sisters. Although the witchlings race to stop Winnie, they are too late, leading to Mary and Sarah’s death. Winnie then begs Becca to reunite her with her sisters, which leads to Winnie’s death. As she gladly departs from this cruel world, Winnie reminds the new Sisters that they are nothing without each other.
As Winnie dissolved into glitter, the four of us (and I mean mainly me) sobbed on the couch. Going into this movie, I thought it would follow the witches return and end in a budding romance between Becca and Izzy (go gays!). Although I am always in support of another queer couple to fangirl about, I really appreciated the movie’s emphasis on sisterly bonds. In the first film, when Max is about to sacrifice his life for his sister, Dani, Winnie berates him; “how foolish to give up thy’s life for thy sister.”
Yet that is exactly what she does. The witches were never meant to realize the error of their soul-sucking ways and repent. Winnie’s salvation does not come from a shift in her conscience, but with the understanding that no matter who you are or what you do in life, it is not as meaningful without sharing it with the people you love. The passing down of Book onto Becca, Izzy, and Cassie showcases the value of chosen family. Family does not need to be determined by blood. Any coven can be formed, as long as it stems from trust, acceptance, and love.
Hocus Pocus 2 was definitely worth the 19 year wait (better than 300 years). The end credits scene revealed a third black flame candle, which means a third installment may be in the works. Another day, another virgin to embarrass! This spooky sequel promises to make you cackle, cry, and call your nearest Walgreens to purchase your own pet Roomba today!
Image Source: IMDb