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Commentary: Rekindle love of childhood classics ‘Hocus Pocus,’ ‘Beetlejuice’ this Halloween

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‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993) is a Halloween-centric movie set in Salem, Mass., which follows three resurrected witches.   Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993) is a Halloween-centric movie set in Salem, Mass., which follows three resurrected witches.
Credit: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

About this time of year, spooky decorations are hung, pumpkins are carved and DVRs are set to record the classic Halloween movies that both entertain and scare us silly. While many go for Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers in their original movies and butchered sequels, I like to keep it safe and watch the Halloween movies from my childhood. Here are some of my favorites:

‘Beetlejuice’ (1988)

After Adam and Barbara Maitland, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis respectively, realize they are dead and must haunt their house for 125 years. They hire the ghostly con artist Betelgeuse, played by Michael Keaton, to scare away the Deetzes, the new family dwelling in the house. The trio of spirits can only be seen by Lydia Deetz, played by a young Winona Ryder. After failed attempts to do scare away the family, the Maitlands become disgusted with Betelgeuse’s crude behavior. The Maitlands and the Deetzes agree to live in harmony after the Deetzes try to make their house a tourist attraction.

Launching Tim Burton’s directing career, this film has all the grotesque humor we grew up loving in the ‘90s.

‘The Addams Family’ (1991)

Based off of the cartoon characters, created by Charles Addams, of the same name in the 1960s, the film centers around the satirical American family. The Addams’ enjoy macabre décor and have strange antics, such as shooting golf balls off roofs and a sibling rivalry between a sister and a brother focused on physically harming — and maybe murdering — one another.

This film brings all the wit and hilarity the family has from the old cartoon and the 1960s television adaptation, helping our generation understand the family that would sometimes guest star in “Scooby Doo” cartoons. The film produced a sequel, “Addams Family Values,” in 1993.

‘Casper’ (1995)

Another film based on a cartoon and comic book series, “Casper” is about Casper, the ghost of a boy who lives with his three rude and obnoxious ghost uncles Stinkie, Stretch and Fatso. When the house they haunt is rumored to have hidden riches, Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty), the owner of the house and seeker of the treasure, manipulates a paranormal therapist (Bill Pullman) and his daughter, played by Christina Ricci, to come to the house in order to get the ghosts away.

Like “Beetlejuice” back in 1988, the grotesque humor the three uncle ghosts have is a constant gag throughout the movie. The kind Casper is the hero throughout the film, thwarting Carrigan’s plans to take the treasure and getting the girl — or at least a kiss — at the end. This is a fun and feel-good film to watch during the season, and Casper is just so gosh darn cute.

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a clay-animated film about Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman), a skeleton who is the ultimate master of fright in Halloweentown. When he begins to feel there is something more to him than scaring people, he stumbles upon Christmastown, a town that celebrates Christmas all year round. Wanting to celebrate Christmas his own way, Jack forces the role of Santa Claus, which causes damages in both Halloweentown and Christmastown.

Coming from the mind of producer Tim Burton, this film has an excellent cast of characters and musical numbers composed and performed by Burton favorite Elfman that keep me singing the songs for days on end. Added bonus — the film can be watched twice a year for Halloween and Christmas.

‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993)

A Halloween list isn’t complete without this movie. Set in Salem, Mass., on Halloween, three sister witches are resurrected from their 300-year imprisonment for stealing the life force of a child by new-to-town Max Dennison (Omri Katz). The witches strive to remain alive after discovering their resurrection only lasts through Halloween night unless they capture children and take their life forces before sunrise. The witches scour the city for victims, taking Max’s sister and his crush. Max save his sister and the witches are thwarted, exploding into dust the next morning.

This movie used to scare me senseless as a kid, but as an adult, the witches are more humorous than frightening. The extreme personalities of the sisters are timeless. The eldest, played by Bette Midler, is constantly sensitive to people calling her ugly, which contrasts greatly with her youngest sister, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, who is the beautiful, yet dumb, blonde witch. The middle sister, played by Kathy Najimy, is the stranger of the three and acts more like a dog with her abilities to sniff out and track children.

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