Hocus Pocus

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Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 10 (violence, scary scenes, themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hocus Pocus
  • a review of Hocus Pocus completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 October 2022.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to violence, scary themes and scenes.
Children aged 8–10 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, scary themes and themes.
Children aged 11 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Hocus Pocus
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Low level violence, contains tobacco depictions
Length: 96 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Winifred, (Bette Midler) Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) Sanderson are three witches living on the outskirts of Salem and surreptitiously sucking the life out of small children in an attempt to stay young forever. When little Emily (Amanda Shepherd) is lured to her death, her older brother, Thackery (Sean Murray), tries to save her but instead winds up being transformed by a curse into a black cat called Binx. Thakery’s family never knew what became of him and when the Sanderson sisters are publicly hung they take this secret to the grave but not before invoking one final spell that will allow them to come back to life. Binx spends the next three hundred years guarding the black flame candle that would allow them to return. On Halloween night in 1993, Max (Omri Katz), a newly arrived sceptic from California who doesn’t believe in witches or magic, takes his little sister, Dani (Thora Birch), out trick-or-treating. In an effort to spend time with his beautiful classmate, Allison (Vanessa Shaw), Max convinces her to take them to the old Sanderson cottage to try to make a believer out of him. While there, Max lights the candle and sets the witches free. Winifred, Mary and Sarah have until dawn to brew a potion and capture children to take their lives, or they themselves will be turned to dust. Max, Allison and Dani, with the help of Binx, must hide the witches spell book, thwart their plans and ultimately destroy the witches before they suck the life out of every child in Salem.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Halloween legends; Witches and witchcraft; Children separated from parents; Death of a child; Bullying.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • The witches attack Thackery after killing his sister. Winifred shoots what appear to be electric currents from her hands which cause excruciating pain to the victims.
  • The witches are hung but chant a spell, allowing them to come back from the dead.
  • Two bullies threaten Max and take his shoes from him.
  • The same bullies later pick on Dani.
  • Alison hits one witch with a broom and another with a frying pan.
  • Dani smacks Winifred with her candy bag.
  • A zombie’s fingers are severed and he later slices his mouth open.
  • Winifred punches Sarah in the stomach.
  • Allison, Max and Dani burn the witches alive in a kiln. They later come back to life when their ashes cool.
  • Max is blasted unconscious by the spell book.
  • The witches burst through the roof of a house leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
  • Two bullies are captured by the witches and locked in cages in their cottage.
  • Winifred threatens to kill Dani.
  • Dani bites Mary.
  • Max tries, with a knife, to defend the others from the zombie.
  • Max hits the witches with a baseball bat.
  • The zombie’s head is decapitated twice.
  • Winifred tries to shove a potion down Dani’s throat but Binx knocks it out of her hands.
  • Winifred tries to kill Max by sucking the life out of him.
  • Sarah and Mary blast into Winifred who drops Max and slowly turns to stone.
  • Sarah and Mary, and then Winifred all burst into dust.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Thackery is transformed into a cat. Winifred blasts him with electricity, chants a curse with her sisters and with creepy, outstretched, hands watches him writhe in agony as he shapeshifts into a black cat.
  • The witches initially look especially sinister and creepy and their appearance, coupled by the fact that they actively seek to end the lives of children, may upset many young viewers.
  • The witches chase the children into a cemetery. They cannot touch the ground so Winifred wakes the dead. The ground begins to shake, gravestones rumble as the terrified kids try to remain standing. A zombie bursts out of his grave and, following Winifred’s instructions, sets off to pursue the children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Thackery’s little sister, Emily, is killed by the witches. They suck her life-force from her body and leave her sitting limply in a chair.
  • The witches curse the parents in the town, telling them to dance till they die. Meanwhile, they are luring all the children in Salem to their cottage, where they plan to take their lives as well.
  • The children of the town are sent into a trance by Sarah’s singing spell. They walk like zombies to, what may be, their deaths. Max and Allison try to stop them but the children cannot respond.
  • Binx is run over by a bus and dies, his squashed body lying in the street. Dani is inconsolable until Binx comes back to life. Later she finds his limp, lifeless, body lying in the cemetery. She is devastated until she hears Thackery’s voice and sees the ghost of the boy who used to be Binx.
  • The witches come after Dani, Max and Allison in a graveyard. They place Dani in an open grave lined with salt as the witches relentlessly pursue them. Dani is captured again and Winifred specifically tries to kill her as revenge for calling her ugly. In an effort to save his sister, Max drinks the potion instead and tries to get them to take him in her place, much to Dani’s dismay.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • When Max and Allison go to wake up Dani, one of the witches jumps out of her bed instead. The witches kidnap Dani after knocking Max unconscious. Dani is screaming and crying, while Allison yells after her, unable to help.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further noted.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Clark Bar candy.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • There are multiple references to virginity.
  • Max hugs a pillow and says: “Oh, Allison you are so soft”. Dani teases him about wanting to kiss Allison.
  • Dani tells Allison that Max likes her “yabbos” (a reference to her chest) and that she couldn’t wear a dress likes Allison’s as she doesn’t have ‘yabbos’ yet.
  • Winifred’s lover had an affair with her sister, Sarah.
  • Winifred tells a bus driver that they desire children and he replies that it may take him a few tries but he should be able to help with that.
  • A bus driver asks for Sarah’s number and she says that if she gave it to him he would hate her in the morning.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Sarah sits on a bus driver’s lap while he flirts with her.
  • Sarah kisses, dances or flirts with numerous men.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Two bullies ask Max for some smokes.
  • A woman drinks and smokes while handing out Halloween candy.
  • Reference is made to the smoking as the witches enter a house.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Party pooper
  • Wench
  • Hag
  • Damn
  • Moron
  • Go to Hell
  • Shove it Satan
  • Tart face
  • Weirdo
  • Putrid pestering sore
  • Buck tooth firefly from Hell
  • Trollop
  • Maggoty mouth
  • Jerk face.

In a nutshell

Hocus Pocus is a Halloween fantasy adventure that is best suited to families with children aged 11 and over. Due to the violence and the constant threat to the lives of children this is not a film for younger viewers.

The main messages from this movie are to look out for those you love; and that by working together incredible obstacles can be overcome.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Friendship
  • Teamwork
  • Ingenuity
  • Responsibility
  • Helpfulness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Failing to heed a warning.
  • Bullying others and stealing what does not belong to you.
  • Harming others to benefit yourself.
  • Forgetting the value of family members, specifically siblings.