Movies Reviews

Hocus Pocus 2: How It Builds On The Original

Hocus Pocus became a cult classic after being a box-office bomb in 1993. The original story found Max, Dani, and Allison on the ride of their lives after Max mockingly lights the Black Flame candle, not believing the legends surrounding the Sanderson Sisters and witches in Salem to be true. Twenty-nine years after the trio successfully tricks and beats the Sanderson Sisters, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson have returned and are ready to strike chaos in Salem once again. This time, however, it is due to Gilbert, a magic shop owner, that Becca and Izzy accidentally revive the Sanderson Sisters.


Hocus Pocus 2 recalls its past, referencing the witches being tricked and the events of 1993 without the movie relying entirely on its predecessor. The film has plenty of nostalgia, but the story never stays stuck in the original movie. Instead, when Hocus Pocus 2 discusses its past, it is mainly Winifred, Sarah, and Mary’s history as children that is being referenced and how it connects to their Reverend’s descendant being Salem’s present-day Mayor. Otherwise, Hocus Pocus 2 is filled with the same charm the original film delivered while modernizing the story and its new central characters.

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A New Generation Of Witches

In Hocus Pocus, the trio of young heroes is mortal. One way to highlight the dangers in the film is that the Sanderson Sisters are the only witches around, and as villains, there are no heroes to match them. Although Max, Dani, and Allison want to fight against Winifred, Sarah, and Mary, they are vastly unprepared to do so, and their successes rely on smarts and trickery rather than magic. In Hocus Pocus 2, Becca is a budding witch, having just reached her sixteenth birthday. Her powers are new, and it takes Becca nearly the entire movie to realize she has them.

But, Becca having magic gives her, Izzy, and Cassie more of a fighting chance against the Sanderson Sisters. It also helps that Becca and Izzy have years of interest in witchcraft, have supplies, and know of ways to potentially stop using dark magic, such as salt. Becca being a witch and later sharing her powers with Izzy and Cassie shows a new Coven being born with the trio taking Book with them.

Related: Hocus Pocus and the Art of Kid Friendly Horror, Explained

References To The Past

There are plenty of references to the Sanderson Sisters’ resurrection in 1993, from clips from the original Hocus Pocus movie to explain their backstory to revealing that Gilbert had witnessed Max, Dani, and Allison’s showdown with the trio in the graveyard. The Sanderson Sisters even briefly believe that Gilbert’s pet cat, Cobweb, is Thackery Binx. The Sanderson Sisters’ origin story even gives a history to Billy Butcherson, the dead man awoken in the graveyard in 1993. At a particular moment, Winifred flies up to a window observing a couple watching a scene from the previous movie. Max, Dani, and Allison are not relevant in Hocus Pocus 2, but their effect on the Sanderson Sisters has lasted.

Modernizing The Story

The world has changed since 1993, which is visible in how the town looks and how people dress and speak. Early in the film, Becca casually calls out the patriarchy’s fear of women aging and how that played a role in the legend that a witch’s powers manifest on her sixteenth birthday. The Sanderson Sisters are shocked by the automatic doors at Walgreens. Rather than being looked at as evil, the citizens of Salem are intrigued and excited by witchcraft, with people even dressing up as Winifred, Sarah, and Mary in Halloween costumes.

Rather than having a love interest as its primary focus, Hocus Pocus 2 takes a sisterhood approach to the story. Becca and Izzy’s friendship, and their difficulties reuniting with old friend Cassie, rests as a conflict and part of the heart of the movie rather than how defeating the Sanderson Sisters helps bring out the romantic potential in Max and Allison.

Development For The Sanderson Sisters

Regardless of which iteration it occurs in, the Sanderson Sisters are power-hungry and evil witches. But, while Hocus Pocus treated them as fun and song-loving villains who desire to kill children, Hocus Pocus 2 keeps that history alive but adds an extra layer of depth. Rather than just being evil for the sake of villainy, Hocus Pocus 2 explores the sisterly dynamic between Winifred, Sarah, and Mary by going back in time and showing a glimpse into their past in a time before they encountered magic. By doing so, it humanizes them more than they had been. There had been a time when the Sanderson Sisters were only children and nearly separated forever.

As adults, Hocus Pocus 2 recalls the trauma of that history, which leads to the trio’s central goal of using Mayor Traske as their enemy, given he is a direct descendant of the Reverend who had once tried to banish Winifred. But, it takes a horrifying plot twist for Winifred to admit just how much her sisters mean to her. Sarah and Mary’s disappearance triggers Winifred’s understanding that ultimate power means nothing without them. Such a realization gives the Sanderson Sisters more character development and a sense of emotional closure.

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