The witch is back, and there’s much more than hell to pay.
Hocus Pocus 2 debuts on Disney+ on Sept. 30, 2022.
Almost 20 years ago, the original Hocus Pocus debuted to lackluster reviews and limited financial returns. Thankfully, you can’t keep a bad witch down. After becoming a beloved cult favorite over the years, the Sanderson Sisters have returned with all new mischievous plans, and they’ve brought a brand new cast along with them. It may be cursed with some shoddy greenscreen, but it still reminds us how these witches were able to cast a spell on us in the first place.
2022’s sequel follows Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) as they fight to keep Salem safe from the series’ original witches, Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker). We also meet enthusiastic new players like the wonderful Gilbert (Sam Richardson) and see the return of old favorites like Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones). The original cast step into their former roles like they’re well broken-in witch boots, and all the new players make admirable additions to the Hocus Pocus franchise.
Hannah Waddingham is, of course, absolutely brilliant as the Witch Mother. Unfortunately, she just so happens to be criminally underused.
Now that that’s been addressed, let’s talk about Hocus Pocus 2’s biggest issue: it’s not filmed in Salem. Now, plenty of films don’t shoot on location. Even the original Hocus Pocus was shot mostly on a soundstage in Los Angeles while graveyard and other exterior shots took place in Massachusetts. The reason it’s a problem here is because it looks like it wasn’t filmed in Salem. It’s wonderfully nostalgic that Hocus Pocus 2 feels like the Disney Channel Original Movies of yore, but the fact that it looks like one in 2022 is pretty rough. The most egregious example is the moonlit forest backdrop that takes up much of the third act. You’ll know it when you see it.
Outside of some ugly greenscreen work (and a complete lack of cobblestone in what’s meant to be historic downtown Salem), Hocus Pocus 2 has some fun attention to detail. For example, the town’s Mayor Traske is noted to have ties to the Salem Witch Trials, and the family does! (Though their name was spelled Trask. Anyway, Bridget Bishop: Innocent.) Meanwhile, there are some nice witchy details like the use of angelica leaves to lift curses. It’s really the root that’s used for protection, but as IGN’s Resident Witch I am letting it slide. Finally, Waddingham’s Witch Mother tells a young Winnifred that “one day, Salem will belong to us.” And it does. Today, up to 1,600 of Salem’s population identify as witches, and you can’t throw a stone downtown without hitting a shop devoted to or celebrating the craft.
Hocus Pocus 2 is all about the power of the coven. Some folks might call it trite or twee, but I personally find it hard to root against a story about sisterhood even if it may be guilty of a little fluff. Besides, who cares about the quest for ultimate power if you can’t take your sisters along with you? Who will you sing magical bops with if they’re not there to back you up? What are you gonna do, bewitch an entire town by yourself?!
The original cast return to remind us why Hocus Pocus became a cult classic.“
Legacy sequels will, of course, always get compared to their predecessors, but it’s practically apples and oranges with Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2. They both have the same leading ladies, but the two focus on completely different things otherwise. The original was all about its non-witch human characters like Max, Dani, and Allison. Meanwhile, though Hocus Pocus 2 does give Becca, Izzy, and Cassie their fair share of relevant screen time, this one feels like it’s more for the Sanderson Sisters. Whether you believe that’s for cynical, merch-selling reasons or because of the uptick in stories told from the “villain” perspective is up to you. Either way, it works for the story and complements the new player’s narrative arc quite nicely. Plus, the focus on the Sanderson Sisters means we get way more musical moments than we did in the first movie! The main number is the show stopper, but their other songs are fun enough.
Like the original, Hocus Pocus 2 leaves things open for another sequel. That doesn’t really feel necessary with where things close out, but it is a nice homage to the final scene from the 1993 movie. Only time will tell if this is the last we see of the Sanderson Sisters and Becca’s circle but, for now, it was a happy enough return to Salem.
Disney+ Spotlight: September 2022
Amelia is the entertainment Streaming Editor here at IGN. She's also a film and television critic who spends too much time talking about dinosaurs, superheroes, and folk horror. You can usually find her with her dog, Rogers. There may be cheeseburgers involved. Follow her across social @ThatWitchMia