The long-awaited sequel to “Hocus Pocus,” “Hocus Pocus 2,” is finally here, with the classic Halloween tale getting a new twist for a new generation. While most of the story takes place many years after the original movie, the movie’s prologue flashes back over 350 years to answer one lingering question: how did the Sanderson sisters become witches in the first place?
The movie opens in Salem in 1653, where we meet Winnie, Mary, and Sarah as young girls. It’s Winnie’s 16th birthday, and the other two girls have tried to set up a birthday surprise for her — including, humorously, a 1600s version of Jell-O and a giant spider in a box. Winnie is not in the mood to celebrate, however, as she reveals in disgust that she’s been told by the local reverend that she’s “getting old” and must marry soon. She’s repulsed at the idea of being forced to marry a boy named John Pritchett (rather than her one true love, Billy Butcherson *gasp*) and gleefully tells her sisters how she swore at the reverend and ran away.
Things take a turn, however, when the town’s slimy Reverend Traske shows up at her door with the whole town in tow and commands her to repent and agree to marry John. When she refuses again, John himself lets out a cry of relief, but to cover his own reputation, he immediately raises his voice and tells the gathered crowd that he’s happy not to marry Winnie because she is “ugly and unpleasant.” Winnie then insists she will marry Billy, who is as surprised as anyone that she considers him her “soulmate.”
In response, Reverend Traske banishes Winnie from Salem and forces Mary and Sarah to go with other families who will “turn them right.” Fortunately, the sisters’ pet spider briefly distracts the reverend and causes panic in the crowd, allowing the sisters to escape to the Forbidden Wood. As they comfort each other with a “calming circle” in the creepy forest, a bird watches them, then swoops in and transforms into a woman.
The witch (played by Hannah Waddingham) tries to tip a bottle of green potion into Sarah’s mouth — the same potion that the sisters used on their victims in the original “Hocus Pocus.” When Winnie shoves her away, she steps back and observes that the sisters seem different from other children who have crossed her path. She also reveals that the woods are feared by humans because they are a powerful space for witches to increase their power, and she gives the sisters their spellbook. The witch also reveals that capturing and eating children is her secret to staying young and beautiful forever, an idea that definitely appeals to the sisters.
After the witch vanishes, the sisters sneak back into town and perform their first spell: setting fire to Reverend Traske’s house. Their act of revenge sets the stage for the story we’re already familiar with, now with a wicked yet understandable backstory to explain their transformation into the fearsome frights we know today.