'Hocus Pocus': Fear Turns Into Fun

In "Hocus Pocus," a teen-age boy, his little sister and his girlfriend try to thwart three goofy 17th-Century sister witches who come back to present-day Salem hoping to lure the town's children to their doom. (Rated PG-13)


It's dark. It's Halloween. There's this graveyard. . . .

What better way to send kids to the edge of their seats, bouncing and squirming and chewing their nails?

But not a single kid would admit to being too frightened by anything in this movie. Not the zombie in the graveyard. Not even the book of spells with the living eyeball. Nor the witches sucking the life force from little children.

"I really liked it," said Julie, 9. "I thought it was as good as 'Jurassic Park.' "

Even those who said they were a tiny bit, insisted it wasn't bad scared. Just good scared. You know you're good scared, explained 10-year-old Amanda, when you laugh.

For instance, she said, she laughed "when the witch was in the bed and they pulled the covers back, and you were expecting the little girl and it made everybody jump."

Derek, 9, vigorously denied it, but his mom exposed him as a fingernail-biter during the graveyard chase scene. Changing the subject, Derek said what he liked the most about the movie was when the three witches took the stage at a Halloween party and began to sing rock 'n' roll with a backup band. Maybe they weren't as good as his favorite group, Boyz 2 Men, but hey, it made him laugh.

Rhea, 9, also liked the music--especially when one of the witches sang to lure the children to her haunted house. (Likewise, she herself had been lured to the movie with a new come-on: a 10-minute promotional video provided free by her local video rental store.) Sometimes, she said, she wasn't sure what was so funny. "When my mom laughed at the part, I laughed too, but I didn't know what she was laughing about."

Could it have been the line where the three flirtatious sisters tell a bus driver they want children and he allows as how that might be possible with a few tries? Or maybe when the sisters mistake a man in a devil costume for the real thing and his wife can't get them out of her house?

In any case, their moms, tennis-playing neighbors who share notes about what's OK and not OK for kids in movies and TV, agreed this was a good, rare, movie for parents and kids to see together. It wasn't too violent for the parents. Or at least not bad violent. "This was violent, with the stealing of the kids," said Derek's mom, Robin. "But not like 'Jurassic Park' violent.

"He laughed in 'Jurassic Park,' " Robin said of her son. "I was scared."

The only downside of the movie came for a few animal-loving kids who were concerned over the fate of a bewitched cat, Binx. "That cat was just like my cat, Milo," said Julie. "I cried when that cat died."

Or did it? "You see," explained her friend Christina, 9, "when the witches died, Binx the cat died, too, and it was really a person and he still came back to life."

Thank you for clearing that up, Christina. I guess, then, it wasn't really bad sad. . . .

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