Why is Hocus Pocus so popular?

Bette Midler from Hocus Pocus - Why is Hocus Pocus so popular?
Image used with Creative Commons 2.0 license via Wikimedia Commons

Why is Hocus Pocus so popular?

Why is Hocus Pocus so popular? The 1993 film starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker as evil witches from the seventeenth century resurrected in Salem, Mass. on Halloween night is a cult classic.

People clamor to watch the film during the Halloween season, and the movie traditionally airs on the cable channel Freeform’s October nightly programming “31 Nights of Halloween” a dozen times or more.

Hocus Pocus is a go-to for Halloween lovers who watched the movie year after year with their children and for the adults who grew up watching the film every year. Perhaps the greatest testament to Hocus Pocus’ popularity and cult status is the fact that Disney has made a remake of the film, with Midler, Najimy, and Parker returning, which will premiere on September 30th of this year.

What exactly has made the film so prominent in the Halloween season? I have a few observations.

Halloween is more popular than ever

Halloween is more popular than ever, especially among adults, and especially among Millennial and Gen Z adults. As I have argued elsewhere, this is in part because this population has a craving for enchantment. As traditional religious affiliation declines in the United States, people are looking for new ways to experience the magical, mysterious, and supernatural.

Halloween fulfills this desire for many people. Many of the people I have interviewed about their love for Halloween have told me about that magic, that certain something in the air, that descends as October unfolds and Halloween draws near. 

When Halloween rolls around, people are craving a certain mood. They want to get into the spirit in order to feel the enchantment. Hocus Pocus is one element of the Halloween season that, for many people, sets an enchanted and just plain Halloweeny mood. The movie has festive Halloween trappings and is full of the magical and supernatural.

The whole narrative unfolds over Halloween night, as trick-or-treating children fill the streets and adults dance the night away at a Halloween bash. It displays classic enchanted Halloween elements including witches, a magical black cat, and a zombie. Basically, Hocus Pocus is a mood piece.

Hocus Pocus is about nostalgia

It sets up the enchanted Halloween feel that people are seeking. One of the advantages of Hocus Pocus is that, unlike horror movies, it is not truly terrifying or disturbing. Even people who want the Halloween enchantment but not the gore or fear can embrace Hocus Pocus.

One of the forces that drives Halloween’s enchantment is nostalgia. Part of the magic of Halloween for adults is remembering one’s childhood and reliving the magic of Halloweens in the past. Hocus Pocus is a nostalgia machine. It is distinctly a product of the 1990s in its production and, as I mention above, many adults associate the film with their experiences watching it as they were growing up.

When adults watch the film or share it with their children, they relive enchanted Halloween nights of childhood. For many adults, childhood is a naïve time when all things magical were simply more real. Adults craving enchantment want to reclaim some of this mindset. Hocus Pocus helps them do that.

Hocus Pocus embraces an enchanted world

Ultimately, Hocus Pocus is an enchanting film, not so much because it makes the magical and supernatural seem real, but more because it sets an enchanted mood for Halloween.

As people seek to curate how the season feels, Hocus Pocus is a useful and effective tool for many. Hocus Pocus helps people get into the spirit of Halloween, and adults have been craving the spirit of Halloween more and more in recent years.


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