After almost twenty years since the release of the greatest Halloween movie of all time, Hocus Pocus, the release of its sequel seemed impossible. But our dreams have come true as we will once again be blessed, or cursed, with the Sanderson sisters in Hocus Pocus 2 this spooky season. While this is certainly some good news we all needed, we will also be getting all three of the original Sanderson sisters back, played by Better Midler (Winifred Sanderson) Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson), and Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson). While we probably won’t be getting the original cat that played Mr. Binx, there will certainly be a fabulous replacement.
Director Anne Fletcher takes us back in time to long before 1993, into the lives of the Sanderson witches before they were witches. Telling the story of how the evil triad came to be and just why they perform the spine-chilling rituals that they do. However, the story also follows two fresh-faced teenage girls who accidentally re-release the witches from their eternal slumber. Rather than an annoying older brother lighting the candle and bringing back the sisters, this time we see a stylish, witch craft-obsessed young woman become the unknown victim of the black-flamed candle. While some may object to the loss of that older brother and sweet younger sister dynamic seen in the first Hocus Pocus, this female-led cast offers a new interpretation of the age-old movie.
Of course, this change in dynamic certainly reflects the social progression of Disney and movies in general, it also allows us to look back in time and examine why it makes sense for this movie to center around women. While the story is clearly about witches in the spooky Halloween sense, we also get a glimpse into the 1600s and see the persecution the Sanderson sisters endured, especially Winnifred. Despite the everlasting evil intentions of these three sisters, they were at one point in time just teenagers who were exiled and demeaned simply because they were women. In this way, director Fletcher almost forces the audience to sympathize with these, lovable, antagonists.
However, because our main protagonists are teenage girls in this new film, Becca and Izzy played by Whitney Peak and Belissa Escobedo, we also see a modern-day redemption for the social issues the Sandersons faced. Even though these young girls are trying to get rid of the sisters in any way possible they are still doing it as women and plotting different creative boobytraps and other whimsical ways in which to capture these witches. Which alters the narrative we see at the beginning of the movie where the Sisters are banished because of their sex and their mischief-prone endeavors. However, our new protagonists are seen as heroes and cunning young women, which in a way makes the fictional suffering of the Sandersons as well as the real suffering of the victims of the Salem Witch trials somewhat worth it.
What is interesting about this film is how it captures three generations of female progression, obviously, beginning with the horrors and issues of the Salem Witch Trials and ending in the modern-day redemption of the ‘witchy’ female. But, if we take a look back at the original Hocus Pocus, a lot can be said about the representation in that movie as well. While the main characters are men, Max and Thackery Binx, who are expected to save the helpless little sister Dani, however, there are a lot of moments of empowerment for Dani as she fights gender stereotypes and helps her brother to save her own life. Furthermore, I think almost all of the female race collectively sighs when they think about how the Sanderson sisters have all the power in the world and all they want is to be beautiful, but it was the 90s. We certainly see a lot more female empowerment this time around and with Halloween movies typically displaying women as the weakest and first to be killed by the psycho murderer, this is certainly a refreshing start.