It Put a Spell On You: How Disney Brainwashed Millions of Millennials Into Believing Hocus Pocus is a Halloween Classic

click to enlarge WALT DISNEY PICTURES
Walt Disney Pictures

The power of nostalgia is strong, my friends. How else could a movie like the third-rate, family-friendly 1993 horror comedy Hocus Pocus — a critically-panned, box-office bomb featuring a rat-toothed Bette Midler hamming it up harder than Nic Cage on psychostimulants — be considered a Halloween classic by a large swath of seemingly sensible millennials?

Simply put, millennials: you’ve been had. Hexed. Convinced. Conditioned. You’ve been brainwashed into believing a story about a trio of bumbling witches who seek revenge on a town after being brought back from the dead is actually a good movie. It’s not, and its rise to cult status in the last 25 years is completely undeserving.

When Hocus Pocus hit theaters on July 16, 1993 (presumably because Walt Disney Pictures didn’t want to compete in October with the superior The Nightmare Before Christmas), it quickly fizzled out, but not before a cauldron-full of well-respected critics like Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times and Janet Maslin from The New York Times slammed the movie as “thoroughly unpleasant” and “an unholy mess.”

Of course, fans of Hocus Pocus could use the excuse that snobby, cynical film critics were too busy fawning over Schindler’s List that year to care about a kids’ movie. You could also say that just because a movie doesn’t do well at the box office doesn’t mean it’s bad. The latter, of course, is entirely true. But Hocus Pocus isn’t The Princess Bride or The Iron Giant or The Wizard of Oz — three other family films that didn’t do great at the theater, but are justifiably beloved today.

Hocus Pocus didn’t become a cult classic because it was a once-snubbed cinematic survivor that naturally found its way into the hearts of children everywhere.

No, since the mid-to-late-1990s, Hocus Pocus was mindlessly dispensed programming — a movie that basically played on a loop for 31 days straight every October on the Disney Channel (later ABC Family, now Freeform) – a movie perfectly matched for pre-Lizzie McGuire tweens looking for something to watch on cable around Halloween while their older siblings were in the basement watching Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees split heads.

Face it, millennials. Disney had the platform and took advantage of your impressionable minds. You don’t really like Hocus Pocus. Your memories as a 10-year-old kid are just telling you that you do. If other ooky-spooky ’90s movies like Casper, Matilda, The Addams Family or The Witches were shoved in your eyeballs with the same consistency as Hocus Pocus was during your youth, you would’ve likely worn your hair like Cousin Itt to the homecoming dance. Instead, you’re here celebrating the 25th anniversary of a Halloween movie you’ve obviously put too much sentimental value on – a Halloween movie that is essentially the cinematic equivalent of petrified candy corn.