The townspeople come banging at the door and the next scene is the three sisters about to be hanged. (I guess they found Emily's lifeless body in their cottage). Thackery's father asks Winnie what she has done with his son. She tells him, "I don't know...cat's got my tongue!" All the sisters start laughing and I start laughing too.
We get a bit of foreshadowing when the spell book drops to the ground and opens up to a page entitled "Spells to Resurrect the Dead" and there's one called "Black Flame Candle Spell." This will come back later. The witches will be able to come back from the dead if the black flame candle is lit by a virgin on Halloween. The witches are hanged (we see a nice shot of Winnie's green and black striped stockings...very Wicked Witch of the West) and the townspeople head home. It's very sad because Thackery, as a cat, tries to get his father's attention by meowing and rubbing against his leg but his father just kicks the poor cat away and tells him, "Away, beast!" DUDE. You just hanged three witches, your son is missing, and this black cat (totally synonymous with witches) is trying to get your attention. Put the pieces together, dude!
The movie transfers to "present day" 1993 (that's 300 years later if you're keeping count) to a high school class in Salem (still Massachusetts; not the capital of Oregon!) where a teacher has been telling the story of the Sanderson sisters to her class. She adds that some people believe on Halloween, a black cat stands guard at the Sanderson house, "warning off any who might make the witches come back to life." Everyone in this class is totally into this story and believes the legend of the Sanderson sisters. Everyone that is, except a kid named Max Dennison (Omri Katz), about fourteen or fifteen and who has recently moved to Salem from L.A. and he hates his new home. Everyone boos him when he tells them he doesn't believe in this malarky (excuse me, hocus pocus!) and tells them Halloween was invented by the candy corporations. The girl he has a crush on, Allison (Shaw), informs him that "Halloween is based on the ancient feast called All Hollow' Eve - the one night of the year where the spirits of the dead can return to Earth." All the students and teacher are clapping and cheering her and giving her high fives because she just schooled him and it's so ridiculous. Look, I've never been to Salem and I don't know anybody from Salem, but I doubt the residents are like, "Whoo! We persecuted and killed people because we thought they were witches! Go us!" Though, I guess in their defense, there were really witches who lived back then.
Max comes home in a bad mood because he gave Allison his number, but she gave it right back to him, then later he runs into these two bullies (one of them is wearing a leather jacket and has a flannel shirt tied around his waist and the other has the word "ICE" (his nickname) shaved in the back of his head. They are the most '90s Disney bullies ever) and they steal his cool new kicks.
They come across a house that is just a perfectly normal-sized two-story house. It is a nice house for a middle class family, but it's not the mansion they're acting like it is. Turns out it's the hone of Allison whose parents are throwing an elaborate 18th century party. Allison is wearing one of those 18th century gowns with the bodice, but she's not wearing the proper undergarments underneath it, so her dress doesn't poof out in an authentic way; instead it just lays flat on her body. I guess they were like, eff it, this girl will only be in this costume for less than five minutes, it doesn't really matter how authentic it looks.
The conversation turns to the Sanderson sisters and we learn that Allison's mother used to run the museum (their old home which is still standing all these 300 years later!) dedicated to them, but it was shut down because "a lot of spooky things happened there." We never learn exactly what these spooky things were. Max suggests they all go check it out and Allison agrees and goes upstairs to change. Dani doesn't want to go because she's heard about the spooky things from her classmates. Max tells her if she does this for him, he'll do anything she wants. He is treading in murky water because she gets an evil grin on her face and tells him next Halloween she wants them to go together as Peter Pan and Wendy. "With tights or it's no deal." Max quickly agrees to this. How much do you want to bet that Max didn't follow up with this deal? He already got what he wanted by spending the evening with his crush, excuse me "the girl of [his] dreams"; it's no skin off his back if he conveniently "forgets" about this deal.
Winnie realizes it's just regular water falling from the ceiling (and ditzy Sarah opens her mouth to drink it) and tells them to follow her. They run outside, but halt quickly when they see a black asphalt road thinking it's a black river. Winnie and Mary push Sarah into to see how deep it is, but Sarah is able to stand on the "river" and announces, "'Tis firm!" and they are able to continue on their way. Winnie tells her sisters (but mainly the viewing audience so we can have some exposition), "The magic that brought us back only works tonight, on All Hallows' Eve. When the sun comes up, we're dust. Fortunately, the potion I brewed the night we were hanged would keep us alive and young forever. Unfortunately, the recipe for that potion is in my spell book, and the little wretches have stolen it." As long as they find the book, brew the potion, and suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise, then they'll be fine. "Otherwise, it's curtains! We evaporate!" Not to get into semantics again, but doesn't Halloween end at midnight? When the sun rises the next day, it will be November 1st! Oh, well.
The go to the graveyard where Winnie resurrects her old lover, Billy Butcherson, who she killed herself by poisoning him and sewing his mouth shut with a needle so he "couldn't tell her secrets even in death" She killed him because she found him "sporting" with Sarah. She wants him to go after the kids, but they are quick to get away from him when Max snaps a branch in front of his face and his head falls off his body and while he's wasting time finding it, the kids escape in a tunnel that leads to the sewer.
There's really no reason for this scene with the Garry and Penny Marshall cameo, (Bette Midler must have called in a favor since Garry directed her in Beaches), but I did laugh when Winnie goes into the kitchen, picks up a mallet, and exclaims, "Behold! A torture chamber!" I can see someone from the 17th century thinking that about a kitchen: there are sharp objects, hot objects, weird electronic devices. When the wife sees Sarah dancing with her husband, she chases the women out (well, really her little terrier chases them out) and Winnie figures out that really wasn't their master and declares the costumed figures are actually children.
The witches find their way to the party and Max sees them and makes an announcement about them and how dangerous they are and they're after everyone's children. The crowd laughs, thinking it's a big funny joke. They also love it when the sisters sing "I Put a Spell On You".
Allison gets an idea and the kids lure the witches to the high school into a kiln. I'm not really sure how they lured them there...we hear a tape playing of a French lesson and for some reason this entices the witches to find out where it's coming from. I don't really know much about kilns. I'm not sure how big they typically are, but this one is big enough for all of them to walk into. The kids lock the door and proceed to burn them alive and we see green smoke escaping from the chimney. I'm looking at the time stamp and there is still half an hour left of the movie, so I know more shenanigans are to be had! After burning the witches, the kids are outside the school, cheering and doing cartwheels. This reaction is a bit extreme considering they just burned three people alive. I realize they were trying to kill Dani (and other children) and killed little Emily 300 years ago so I'm sure they felt they got justice for Binx, but look, we we just shot Bin Laden; it's not like we burned him alive. Their reaction of jubilance is a bit much.
Binx tells Max he's wanted to do that for 300 years, since they took Emily away from him. After telling Max to take good care of Dani, he starts to run in the opposite direction, but Max tells him he's a Dennison now and can live with them. They all go to the Dennison house where they hang out in Max's room; Dani and Binx on the bed and Max and Allison sitting on the steps. Oh, did I mention that Max has steps in his room? Yeah, they lead up to a widow's walk. Um, like how cool is that? Why is he complaining about his new town when he has a super cool room that leads to a widow's walk?? You know Dani is moving into that room after Max goes to college!
Allison ends up falling asleep at the Dennison house (both she and Max falls asleep on the stairs which can not be comfortable!) When she realizes it's five am, she tells Max she should go since her parents will kill her. They're probably worried sick about her! If it's five am, her parents' party probably ended hours ago and, yeah, they're probably wondering where their daughter is! But she quickly forgets about going home when she gets sidetracked when they see Binx snuggling up to Dani and Max tells her, "We owe him a lot." Allison gets the idea to look through the spell book (yep, still in in their possession) and see if they can find a spell that will reverse the curse. Max reminds her that Binx warned them not to open the book, but Allison just replies, "The witches are dead. What harm can it do?"
Plenty, Allison, plenty. You see, ALLISON, the witches aren't actually dead. Somehow, being burned alive didn't kill them...or maybe those kids don't know how to work a kiln, who knows? We see the door open and the three sisters walk out of the kiln with disheveled hair. There isn't even a trace of ash or soot on them.
They return to their home and Winnie is trying to remember the potion from memory since they don't have the book. She says she remembers that Sarah was "dancing idiotically over there", which Sarah hilarious reenacts her for. When Winnie is trying to remember one of the key ingredients, she just can't quite get it. Is it dead man's nose? Dead man's thumb? Dead man's gum? Sarah jumps in excitedly with, "Dead man's toes!", but Winnie just tells her to hush.
It's no use, Winnie can't remember the recipe for the potion and she starts sobbing and tells Mary in the most dramatic way, "This is the end, I feel it. We are dooooooomed. I feel the icy breath of death upon my neck." She requests that Mary take her to the window because, "I wish to say goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye, cruel world. Goodbye to life. Goodbye to all that."
Well, it just so happens that when Allison and Max opened the spell book, it shot a stream of red light right out of the widow's walk, illuminating where the book is and Winnie's tune quickly changes from depressed to ecstatic. She tells Mary, "We fly!" Mary isn't sure what they're going to fly on since all their brooms were stolen, but they open the supply closet and Winnie flies on a broom, Sarah flies on a mop, and Mary flies on a vacuum. I guess the criteria is that witches have to fly on something that cleans floors! Where is the Swiffer? That's what I would ride!
I must say the practical effects they used for the flying scenes look pretty realistic. I'm not sure how they did it, but props to the special effects department for this movie.
While Max and Allison are reading the book, they find out if they surround themselves with a circle of salt, they are protected from the witches' powers. Of course, this is going to come up later, but it's kind of weird they're even mentioning this because, as far as they know, the witches are dead and they don't need to protect themselves from them.
Max checks his parents' room to see if they're home, but they're not. How is it five am and the parents still aren't home? Is it because Winnie cast a spell at the party telling everyone to, "Dance until they die?" (Which she did, but I didn't think anyone was going to take literally!) Why haven't they shown us shots of the parents at the party, still dancing to show us why they're still not home?
While Max and Allison are in the kitchen getting salt (I guess you can never be too prepared), we see a creepy shot of a long fingernail cutting through the screen. The older kids hear a crash from upstairs and run up to check on Dani. She looks like she's laying in the bed, under the covers, but when the covers are pulled off, Sarah is lying in the bed. I have to admit, that reveal scared me because I wasn't expecting it! The closet door opens to reveal Winnie and Mary hiding with Dani and the book. They take Dani, Binx, the book, and shoot through the widow's walk, just leaving a huge gaping hole. I'm sure the Dennison parents are going to love to pay for that!
There's a cool shot of the silhouette of three witches flying over Salem where you can see the coastline and a lighthouse flashing its light.
Not sure if this movie is a musical, but we had the witch sisters singing "I Put a Spell On You" and now we get another musical number where Sarah sings a song to lure the children to them: "Come, little children, I'll take three away into a land of enchantment." As she sings this sing, we see kids, walking like zombies, toward the Sanderson home. Some are in their pajamas and some are still in their costumes. At five am? Why? Some kids are even in their pajamas with elements of their costume. The witches have tied Dani up in a chair and Binx is tied up in a bag while they brew the potion.
Allison and Max get an idea to fool the witches into thinking the sun has come up (even though there's still probably another hour before the sun actually comes up). They drive to the Sanderson house (I guess it's one of Max's parents' car; I don't think they just jacked this car from off the street) and right before the sisters are about to feed Dani the potion, Max bursts in and tells Winnie there's something called Daylight Saving Time, then Allison turns on the car's headlights, making the witches think the sun is coming up and they hide for cover. This gives Max time to get Dani and Binx out of there and he kicks over the cauldron with the potion. Very similiar to the first scene when Thackery knocks over the potion.
The witches realize they've been duped and Winnie inspects the caldron, declaring there's just enough potion left "for one child" and pours the potion into a vial. Even though the children they've summoned are still walking towars their home in a trance, Winnie has her sights set on Dani as payback since she called Winnie ugly while Winnie was brewing the potion and lauding how she was going to be young and beautiful forever. Dani told her, "It doesn't matter how young or old you are! You sold your soul! You're the ugliest thing that's ever lived and you know it!" The look Bette Midler gives Thora Birch in this scene is absolutely hilarious. Needless to say, Winnie does not like being called "ugly" and she tells Dani that she'll be the first to die. And Winnie plans to keep that promise!
The kids drive to the graveyard with the witches following them on their flying cleaning supplies. (Again, what is with the graveyard setting?) They run into Billy who takes the pocketknife that Max threatens him with to cut open the stitches in his mouth. He is finally able to tell Winnie off and Max realizes this zombie is on their side.
Max tells Winnie to put down his sister or he'll smash the vial. She retaliates by telling him if he smashes it, Danie dies. He drinks the potion instead and tells her she has no choice; she'll have to take him. It's very noble that he's sacrificing his own life for his little sister's, but hopefully he has a plan NOT to die! Max starts to emit the same glow Emily did at the beginning of the movie and Winnie, still on her broom, lifts up Max so she's basically holding him by the collar of his sweatshirt (that thing's gonna stretch out!) or even by his hair at times (ouch!) She's trying to suck the life out of him as he's struggling to let go. Sarah and Mary are trying to help her, but Allison, Dani, and Billy are pulling on the cord of the vacuum to prevent them, so Sarah has to pull on Mary's hand to help HER.
But, guess what? Time's up! Game over! The sun starts to come up (and this is a massive Sahara sunrise; no way this sunrise would ever occur in New England, especially in the fall). Winnie is surprised by this and both she and Max fall to the ground. But Winnie won't give up! She's determined to get the life force from Max before the sun has completely risen. She still's holding Max by his sweatshirt, but is distracted and freaked out when she starts to turn to stone, starting with her feet until she has turned into a statue standing in the middle of the graveyard (and still holding onto Max, but he's able to get away from her stone grip). I was confused for a second because I thought they were supposed to turn to dust, but then I liked the idea of Winnie remaining a statue forever in the cemetery and it would add more to the lore. Sarah and Mary, still flying on their brooms (just for a split second more!) are like "Uh-oh!" when they see the sun and they both turn into dust, though it looked more like glitter since Sarah turns into purple dust and Mary turns into red dust. Then the statue of Winnie explodes into green glitter dust and I was a little disappointed that her statue didn't stay. The sequel to this movie is supposed to come out next year with Midler, Parker, and Najimy reprising their roles. I bet the screenwriters are kicking themselves that they didn't leave Winnie as a statue! Oh, well, I'm sure they'll find a way to resurrect these witch sisters from being turned into millions of dust particles!
The great mood the Dennison siblings are in now won't last long when their parents return home and see the top of the house has been blown off!
So I really enjoyed this movie even though I have no nostalgic attachment to it. I can see why it's turned into a Halloween cult classic over the years. I do find it odd that this movie came out in July; this is a movie you must see during October during the Halloween season.
Happy Halloween, everyone!