29 years ago we were blessed with possibly the best Halloween movie ever, Hocus Pocus. Now there is a sequel coming out on Disney + on September 30 and I can’t wait. Luckily I didn’t have to; well sorta. That’s because a sequel to the original story, Hocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha was released as a novel back in 2018.
The first half of Hocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel is based on the screenplay of the original movie by Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert and story by David Kirschner and Mick Garris. The second half is a new story taking place twenty-five years after the original and perhaps the best predictor some of what to expect in Hocus Pocus 2: Rise of the Elderwitch. I love the symmetry of the first movie being the inspiration for the first half of the book and the second half of the book being the inspiration for the second movie!
[Warning: My review of Hocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha contains some spoilers!]
Hocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel then:
I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the first half of the book. At this point, Hocus Pocus has become a firm part of American Halloween culture. The basic story is that the Dennison family moves from California to Salem, Massachusetts. Their children, Max and Dani have a hard time adjusting, especially Max. Then comes Halloween and in an effort to impress the local cool girl, Allison, Max lights the black flame candle and brings the dreaded Sanderson sisters back to life.
The sisters, Winnie, Sarah, and Mary, pick up where they left off 300 years ago. They get to work trying to brew a potion to steal the life force from children, which will make the witches young again. Max, Allison, and Dani have until sunrise to thwart the sisters’ plans or they will stay in the world of the living. The kids are joined by the immortal cat Binx, who was cursed by the witches 300 years ago.
Hilarious hijinks ensue. There are a few close calls, but finally, the sun rises and the unsuccessful witches turn first to stone and then to dust. Binx is finally released from his cat form and able to reunite with his little sister whom the witches killed so long ago. Everyone goes home happy.
Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel now:
Fast-forward 25 years for the sequel. Max and Allison are married and have a 17-year-old daughter, Poppy. Poppy is terrified that someone will find out that her parents and aunt not only believe in the story of the Sanderson sisters but claim to have fought them when they were in high school.
At her insistence, all mention of the Sandersons is forbidden and Halloween is usually ignored in their house. The only person aware of her family’s story is her best friend Travis, and he puts as much stock in it as she does.
But this year is different. For some reason, her parents have decided to throw a huge Halloween party. They’ve invited all their colleagues from work and Poppy’s entire high-school class. Including resident mean girl Katie Taylor, who has not only recently chosen Poppy as her personal chew toy, but also overheard her telling her family secret to Isabella Richards.
Family secrets shared
Poppy reluctantly told Isabella, whom she is secretly crushing on, the story after she freaked out a little when Isabella brought up the Sanderson sisters in class.
It turns out that there was a fourth Sanderson sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth has been mostly forgotten by time because she tried to live a normal life away from her sisters. She married, had children, and reportedly didn’t use magic.
Not that this saved her. After hanging her evil sisters the townspeople came for her. Her husband and children just barely escaped but Elizabeth wasn’t so lucky. When Isabella asked about Elizabeth in history class Poppy was understandably upset but Isabella didn’t know why. Poppy tried to avoid telling her but eventually, her need to please Isabella won out over her need for secrecy. Of course, she didn’t know Katie was within earshot when she shared her parents’ story.
Impressing the cool girl again
So now Poppy would give anything not to attend the Halloween party where her parents, her bully, and her crush will all be. When Isabella brings a spirit board to the party for some Halloween fun Poppy seizes the opportunity and suggests they adjourn to the Sanderson sisters’ old home and try to contact them! Isabella and Travis agree, after all, witches and ghosts aren’t real so why not?
After they arrive at the Sanderson house Isabella reveals that she has Winne’s spell book in her possession. She says she has no idea where it come from, it just appeared on her bed, then she reveals that she is a great, great, great, etc, granddaughter of Elizabeth Sanderson and that’s why she is so interested in the Sanderson sisters. Everyone is starting to feel a little spooked but they decide to go ahead and use the spirit board. To their shock, they contact something. To their greater shock, they are tricked into reciting a spell.
The spell is a switching spell that sends Poppy’s parents and aunts to Hell in exchange for Winnie, Sarah, and Mary. Once again the Sanderson sisters walk the Earth. The difference is instead of the spell ending at dawn like last time, this time it becomes permanent if Poppy and her friends can’t send the Sandersons back where they belong.
But the sisters are after more than a simple return. They want to complete a spell that will grant them immortality. On top of that, they want to swap souls for all the witches in Hell, creating a super coven to rule the world with! The witches need three things to accomplish this, Winne’s spell book, the blood moonstone, and souls to trade.
Stopping the Sandersons again
Fortunately, they don’t know where the blood moonstone is. The only person who does is Elizabeth Sanderson’s husband. She gave it to him to hide over 300 years ago. Luckily Elizabeth’s ghost (along with Binx and Emily) has returned to help her multi-great-granddaughter defeat her evil sisters.
Complicating matters, Isabella is turned into a dog by the sisters when they return. But Elizabeth gives them all hope. She tells them that if the blood moonstone is destroyed then every spell cast by a Sanderson would be undone. Isabella becomes human, Sandersons go back to hell, and the zombified citizens of Salam return to normal.
As the night progresses the friends hook up with none other than Katie Taylor to try and find the blood moonstone and foil the Sanderson sisters. As they search for the stone they also discover that Isabella has some witchy powers of her own.
Eventually, they manage to find the stone but destroying it is another story. Finally, after an epic battle with the Sandersons and some of their witchy friends, fresh from Hell, the friends prevail just in the nick of time. Poppy does some major growing at the end and everyone ends up happy, just like any good Disney movie.
Hocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel is perfect for kiddos
The Hocus Pocus Sequel is a cute little story. The subject has the potential to be really dark but there are lots of witty lines exchanged between the characters to keep the overall mood light and kid-friendly.
The sisters are ancient relics that don’t even know what photographs are, let alone cell phones, but for all their missteps they’re not idiots. They manage to figure out how to use Isabella’s dropped iPhone and concoct a plan to ensnare nearly the entire town with it. They remain just enough of a threat to make you afraid for Poppy and her friends and family. But not so scary that you’re checking the shadows for them.
Any adult that loved Hocus Pocus as a kid will enjoy the book for nostalgic reasons, especially around Halloween, but I think the real demographic is more early to late teens. The teenage angst of wanting to fit in, trying to deal with a “weird” family, and navigating a first love will all resonate better with this age group.
The simple story will sit better with them too. Don’t get me wrong, the story is nice, but it is simplistic for adult readers. So grab this book, quickly read it, then pass it on to your kiddos and everyone will be happy this spooky season.
My Rating for this book: 8/10
Hocus Pocus and The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha is currently available at most booksellers.
Hocus Pocus 2 arrives on September 30 exclusively on Disney+!
If you haven’t already, check out my recent review from Aconyte’s Marvel line, Target: Kree, a Crisis Protocol novel by Stuart Moore!