“Lock up your children! Yes, Salem, we’re back!”
29 years after the original Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson Sisters return in the aptly named Hocus Pocus 2, a direct-to-streaming sequel to the Halloween cult classic.
In a relatively similar plot to the first, three young girls accidentally awaken the Sandersons, 30 years after the original, and must figure out how to put the witches back where they belong before they wreak havoc on all of Salem.
As with the majority of ‘legacy sequels’ in an ever-saturated market of them, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy return as their characters Winifred, Sarah, and Mary, and nothing is lost. The magical chemistry that made the original so delightful is still intact, with modernized gags involving supermarket beauty products and robot vacuum cleaners giving each actress a chance to shine.
Callbacks to the first are always a given with sequels, and rarely are they done well, but Hocus Pocus 2 manages to do so. Some footage from the first film is incorporated, as well as some new takes on iconic shots (such as the Sanderson’s bursting down a door in a ray of light).
In addition, there is a range of new musical numbers which will make you “dance, dance, dance until you die!”, as well as the re-inclusion of an original song from the 90s classic.
The spell is not perfect, however. Whereas the first had evocative, autumnal colouring and eye-catching sets, the sequel falls victim to the same issues which plague recent Disney projects. The set design, quite often, feels cheap and artificial, which detracts from immersion into this magical world (why is the moon so low?) and the colouring is at times visually drab and boring.
The new group of teenage characters also can’t hold a black-flamed candle to the ’93 bunch. The first 20 minutes of the film go so quickly that we don’t really get to know them before the mayhem begins.
However, the decision to make Whitney Peak’s character Becca a young witch herself created an interesting dynamic and a new element to the plot which allowed for some rather creative sequences in the last act of the film.
In a year of legacy sequels (Scream, Top Gun: Maverick, Halloween Ends), the Hocus Pocus franchise saw its opportunity and seized it. This long-in-the-making sequel will never gain the same reputation as its predecessor, but due to its charismatic leads and spooky fun, it earns its place in the yearly Halloween schedule for families looking for some lighter Halloween viewing, without the kids having to sleep with a light on.
Featured Image Credit: Modern Myths