Halloween is one of my favourite times of year for films, and I've loved all the witch and wizard magical, spooky-themed films since I was young. I was really looking forward to seeing Hocus Pocus 2, but I had no idea what to expect from the sequel. Would they pick up where they left off in 1993, move on a bit but with a strong connection to the original, or do something completely different?
This Disney + release turned out to be the latter, and I found myself watching a modern-day Salem on screen. The old town is now a 'historic district' which has the air of a novel tourist attraction, complete with a mystical magic shop which presents the story of Salem and the Sanderson Sisters as some kind of commercial entertainment enterprise - hear the story, buy some magical merch.
The detail in Gilbert's shop and his stage show presentation are very apt for the modern day, and the feeling that the Sanderson sister's legend has become less powerful and more humorous myth with time, but I did miss the spookiness of the Sisters' old house as a museum. Overall though the contrast between the modern-day, and the historical district, complete with spooky wood was done very well. A highlight was the sheer daftness of Becka and her friends convincing Winnie and her Sisters to go to Walgreens for potions to give them youth, instead of eating the children of Salem. I hate it when filmmakers take a joke too far, but part of me wanted to see a bit more of them adjusting to the modern world.
It was really interesting to see the Sanderson Sisters' early years at the start of the film too. The early hints of witchyness, making gross-sounding jellies, and a fondness for much-despised spiders were all unexpected highlights. When Winnie was banished from Salem forever, for not agreeing to some marital demands, and managed to take her sisters with her, it was dramatic, if a little rushed. The following scenes in the woods when they discovered more about who they are were also quick and a bit unclear.
What struck me as a bit odd, though perhaps expected in modern-day Salem, was the reaction of the Mayor and other characters to those back from the dead. When confronted with the Sanderson Sisters en-mass, the Mayor of Salem's deadpan 'love the resting witch face' was hilariously casual, and as if he thought he was merely greeting a group in fancy dress. Even when magic shop owner Gilbert came face to face with Winnie's old flame Billy Butcherson, risen from the grave, it was almost like it was an everyday occurrence, and he didn't even flinch. Billy himself, much like a slightly comedic scare actor at a theme park.
But I guess this is modern-day Salem, where the renowned witches are almost celebrated rather than feared, and even when they do come back with the intention of wreaking havoc, it all ends up a bit tame. I guess this is where the disappointment lies if you've seen the first movie, I couldn't help but expect more drama and more familiarity.
But The Sanderson Sisters were still on point with their costumes, mannerisms and banter, the beloved spell book was there like a familiar old friend, but one with a surprising conscience. There were a few little twists like this that kept things interesting, and a touch of humanity and emotion at the end, but the musical theatre-style song and dance numbers that popped up seemed out of place and lessened the Halloween feel.
That was my overall feeling, I wanted a bit more Halloween, and a bit less of the musical theatre style song and dance numbers and other little touches that just felt completely out of place. The contrast between modern and historic was a really interesting idea, so I did enjoy watching, but it was still a bit disjointed and messy in places, and could have been so much more.
Have you watched the film yet? What are your thoughts, do let me know below, especially how you compare both films. For me the original is a solid 8/10, this one though only makes 6 1/2.