Hocus Pocus is one of the most beloved Halloween movies of all time—and for good reason. The campy Disney flick about two teens (and a preteen) taking on three Salem-trial-era witches was not well-received when it first debuted in 1993, but it’s since become a cult classic. It’s a rip-roaringly funny film that features some of the best work from Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler, a Halloween treat that even the biggest scaredy-cats can enjoy.
But it was almost an entirely different film. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mick Garris, one of the Hocus Pocus screenwriters, reveals that the movie was originally titled Halloween House and was more “explicitly frightening” than the final product. Yes, the general plot was always centered around three kids battling witches, but Hocus Pocus‘ trajectory would’ve been totally different with a darker aesthetic. Without the ridiculous dialogue and slapstick moments from Midler, Parker, and Kathy Najimy, what would Hocus Pocus even be about?
“What I had written originally was about 12-year-olds,” Garris told EW. “The kids being younger and in more jeopardy was certainly something more explicitly frightening.” It’s hard to imagine what this original draft looks like seeing as how virtually nothing about Hocus Pocus is scary. (OK, maybe Billy the Zombie is creepy for, like, five seconds…but that’s it.)
Ultimately, Garris bumped two of the kids’ ages up to 16, and the script’s tone became “broadly comedic.” Honestly, this was probably for the best. There are dozens of films about evil, spooky witches—and not a ton that make you laugh. That’s why Hocus Pocus stands out more than 20 years after its release. Here’s hoping the sequel Disney has in the works will stay true to the original.
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