BEETLEJUICE and HOCUS POCUS: Halloween with a Pair of Cult Classics

This year for Halloween I imagined myself as a kid in the late 80s / early 90s, catching up on two beloved cult classics that I somehow missed growing up: Beetlejuice (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1993). Join me on my trip back to a childhood that never was!


I have caught bits and pieces about the plot of Beetlejuice from friends over the years, but going into it all that really stuck in my memory is that you can’t say “Beetlejuice” three times. Then again, I have written this word twice in a single paragraph so let’s just see how this goes, yeah?

From Tim Burton’s unique gothic style, to the obvious disparities between the characters, it is easy to see why this film has been referenced many times by my friends and others. It flips from colorful and intense to muted and zany. Tim Burton’s movies sear themselves into the audience’s memories and this one is no exception. He is very good at depicting fish-out-of-water stories; this movie, Edward Scissorhands (1990), and The Corpse Bride (2005) are great examples.

Mom and Dad

My favorite parts of this film are the two main characters, Adam and Barbara, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. They are depicted as total squares, but they are quite sweet and their relationship is very healthy. You can’t help but fall in love with these two as they dance together and try to make their home a better place until of course [SPOILER ALERT], they die. (This was pretty much spoiled by the first line of the trailer so hopefully you’ll forgive me for that.)

While they are dealing with being dead, trying to understand the complexities of the afterlife, new (live) humans move in: the Deetz family, Charles, Delia and daughter Lydia. Lydia is played by Winona Ryder, she’s great.

She could make a good lawyer if she can read through that.

Delia hates the home she has moved into. She wants to tear it to pieces and re-design it to suit her aesthetic. At this point our friendly ghost duo decides they need the help running these awful humans out of their home, and they seek out the crazy character that this movie is named after.

Then things really hit the fan. I know that this Beetle-whatever guy is necessary to get the plot moving, but I hate pretty much everything about him. He is rude and sexist and just all around gross. I was actually really surprised that this film was only rated PG, I thought it at least earned a PG-13.

Beetlejuice is a Tim Burton Experience™. It’s imaginative and the settings are very colorful and I’m sure it took a long time for the crew to create — and it’s worth it. From the small-scale models of the town to the design of other realms, you can tell that a lot of work and dedication went into this film. My favorite part is the view of the Deetzes home after all the remodeling is done. Do I think that it is an architecturally sound building? NOPE. However, it looks like something painted by a surrealist painter.

The 80s were a dark time

I wish the movie had a little less Beetle, but that’s a silly request since, you know, his name is literally in the title. It definitely sets a Halloween mood.

One last thing, “Beetlejuice.” (Looks around anxiously.)

Hocus Pocus

Kenny Ortega’s Hocus Pocus (1993) is not at all what I expected. It’s full of magic and trickery and, weirdly enough, had more mentions of the word virgin than I think I’ve ever heard in 2 hours. As the three Sanderson sisters fill the screen it’s easy to put together why this Disney movie has a cult following. The sisters are pulling the audience in every direction and take them on a wild ride… even if it does take about 300 years to get there.

It’s from the early 90s, so the CGI in Hocus Pocus is not exactly great but there is a general feeling of lightheartedness and a twinge of nostalgia that I can’t help but like. I’m not gonna lie, are some things cheesy? Oh absolutely, it almost physically hurt at times. However, there is something about the performances of the three witches made the film fun for me.

My favorite sister of the famous trio has to be Sarah Sanderson (Sarah Jessica Parker). I just feel like Parker is having the time of her life acting for a kids’ movie. I can’t help but smile when I watch her glide about or try to lure children to their deaths, however morbid that may be. In an interview with the Today Show, Parker said that she believed that her character was “truly evil in the most uncalculating way.” Yet I can’t help but feel like the true champion of evil was Winifred played by Bette Miller. I mean she literally sewed her ex’s mouth shut and buried him, come on.

The thing that I loved the most about this film was the surprise musical number in the middle of the movie. Winifred really owned the stage in front of tragically oblivious parents and other partiers of Salem.

I wish I had watched this it when I was younger. I think that people really connect with Hocus Pocus because they remember when they were growing up in the 90’s watching this movie. I haven’t quite the right movie to crown my favorite for this Halloween season yet but I will keep you all posted.