Welcome! Welcome one and all! I’m bringing back Movie Night! An Autostraddle series where we choose a movie based on any number of variables and feelings, create a themed menu and some decoration ideas to match, then spend the night eating these foods and watching these movies! It’s an uncomplicated but promising plan.
For our latest installment, something wicked this way comes. I’ve selected the 90s cult classic Hocus Pocus to kick Halloween season into high gear!
I’m pairing the movie with gooey, cheesy pumpkin stovetop mac-n-cheese and brownies loaded with as much candy as humanly possible. I also dusted off my Halloween decorations and set us up with a playlist to set the mood.
Whether it’s a quiet night in with a cutie of your dreams, dinner for friends, pre-gaming before a night on the town, or a no-pants dance party that involves your beautiful face and no one else, I hope that reading my experience inspires you to make a little magic of your very own.
The Movie: Hocus Pocus (1993, Walt Disney Studios)
The Menu: Pumpkin mac-n-cheese, Brownies filled with Halloween candy
The Vibes: Is witchy childhood nostalgia a thing? Let us agree to make it a thing.
OK, Let’s do this!
Stream it on Amazon or iTunes. If you’re looking to make a commitment you can also buy the Blu-Ray/ DVD for pretty cheap. Hocus Pocus also airs regularly on cable television throughout October.
The official synopsis of Hocus Pocus can be found on Rotten Tomatoes, but their critics gave the movie a lowly 30% score when it’s obviously The Very Best Film Ever Made In All The Known Universe, so let’s not give them a lot of credence. Instead, this is my very unofficial synopsis off the top of my head without having seen the movie since last October:
Hocus Pocus tells us the story of the Sanderson Sisters, a trio of witches who first lived among us either during colonial America or during the Salem Witch Trials — or maybe those are the same time period? Anyway, they use potions to suck the souls out of children in order to prolong their own life. Like many other great witches, the Sandersons get burned at the stake. However, Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler) tricked us all: The sisters will come back to life when a virgin lights the black candle on a Halloween night with a full moon. Fast forward a couple of hundred years to the mid ‘90s and a virgin, a sulky teenager named Max, stupidly lights the candle to impress Allison, the girl he has a crush on. Max, Allison, and his little sister Dani band together to save the children of their New England town from the Sandersons in delightfully funny, surprisingly heartfelt, musical adventure.
Ok, now we have that bit of business out of the way.
I probably don’t have convince most you that Hocus Pocus is wonderful, even if it’s the type of movie where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. The kinetic chemistry between Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy is absolutely unbelievable. Everyone’s dressed painfully ‘90s. The cats talk and the zombies are real. There’s a full-fledged sing-a-long in the middle for no other reason than who doesn’t want to hear Bette Midler sing? And witches! And a teeny tiny Thora Birch playing the best, sassiest, takes no mess from anyone ten-year-old girl to be captured on screen in her decade.
“Come Little Children, I’ll Take Thee Away…” – Sarah Sanderson
If you are like me and watch the movie every year during one of its five thousand reruns on Freeform in October- Hello, we have been waiting for you. If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, then trust me it’s time to come home. If you fall outside of the age bracket of cusp-millennial nostalgia and are confused as to what we are getting so hyped about — please, pull up a chair. Allow me to fluff your pillow. You are in for quite the ride.
Autostraddle Vapid Fluff Editor Stef Schwartz recently credited Sarah Jessica Parker in this very movie as her gay root. Disney just announced a Disney Channel remake of the movie that I am incredibly worried about. Did I mention that google searches for the film are skyrocketing? This October, like each that has come before it for the last 20 years, has everything coming up Sanderson.
When the air turns crisp and leaves turn from green to red and orange, others may desire for pumpkin spice flavored treats, or warm apple cider and knit sweaters. Yes, all of that is amazing. But I only yearn for one thing: for a virgin to light the damn candle and bring my favorite witches back from the dead.
Setting the Mood
Even when I’m having a solo movie night, I like to set a mood.
I’m not an everyday drinker, so having a beer or cocktail automatically makes my night feel more luxurious. October is perfect for this sort of thing because pumpkin beer is in full effect! If you aren’t in to alcohol, team Autostraddle has you covered. A.E. made a list of 6 mocktails you can enjoy this fall.
As you’re sipping your drink, you are definitely going to want music. We have a lot of decorating and cooking ahead of us. Music is the difference between “ick, this feels like chores” and “I’m pumped to get creative and enjoy myself!”
Here’s the playlist I made for you. None of these songs are actually from Hocus Pocus. I searched high and low, that soundtrack is not available anywhere! Still, I’m pretty proud of what I put together. The emphasis is fun Halloween pop, witchy themed classic rock, and Beyoncé. I sincerely believe that Beyoncé goes with every occasion.
(Even if you have no intention of having a movie night, I recommend this playlist for these last few weeks of October. It’s spooky, silly and at times a bit sultry in all the right ways to pair with crunchy leaves and warm drinks.)
Fun Fact: Rosie O’Donnell was originally offered the role of Mary Sanderson. She felt uneasy about playing a character who kills children.
Now that we’ve had a drink and our speakers are crooning, let’s talk decorations.
My philosophy when it comes to holiday and party decorations basically revolves around three axes: Does looking at it make me happy? Are the colors vibing? And how much will it cost me?
I find joy in the corniness of most holidays. I enjoy having a space that looks festive. I’m also painfully aware that Halloween turns over on November 1st, and my budget doesn’t allow for many large scale items. I’ll be real with you, this is usually when Target enters my life. This month I decorated my kitchen table for roughly the cost of a movie ticket and popcorn. A movie lasts roughly two hours and this table has already made me smile for weeks, so I feel good about the exchange.
There are lots of ways to take this theme. I could see an elegant gothic witches ball/ costume party situation being stellar. I went with orange pumpkins and candy. In part because that was on sale (#BudgetLyfe) and in part because stuffing my face is my favorite Halloween tradition. When food is your decoration, you get to eat them when the holiday is over, which is a double win to me.
If big box stores aren’t your thing, I feel you. Halloween and nights in at home are an excellent time to get crafty. When I have better patience and emotional capacity, crafting is one of my favorite ways to spend time. If you find your budget even tighter this month, there’s almost always a good quality seasonal decorations to be found at the dollar store with relatively little effort. The main thing is that you feel your space is warm and welcoming, whatever that means for you. And that you’re not exhausted getting there. Where is the fun in that?
Alright, your gathering spaces look amazing and you are doing great! Time to get a second pre-game drink and celebrate with a sneak peek of the Bette Midler’s rendition of “I Put A Spell On You”; it’s what we are really all here for anyway.
Stovetop Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese
Adapted from AverieCooks.
Serves 4 as written, but I often halve it (or even quarter it for a single serving, eaten right from the pot to save dishes!) Prefer a vegan option? I got you, boo! Make the two and 1/2 cups of pasta listed below, and then try this sauce instead.
- 2 1/2 cups of the short, chunky pasta of your choice (elbow macaroni, penne, farfalle, medium shells, etc.)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast or mustard powder, optional
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (most people buy from a can, be careful not to buy “pumpkin pie filling” by mistake. If you are feeling ambitious and want to try roasting and puréeing a pumpkin from scratch for storage – that’s easier than it sounds, I promise! – I would start you off here)
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheeses of your choice (cheddar is traditional, lately I have been really into gouda, fontina is also great. The main thing for a great mac-n-cheese is to have a mix of cheeses as your base.)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Put pasta pot back on stovetop.
Now we are going to make the pumpkin cheese bechamel (that’s fancy for ‘milk sauce’)!
Using the same warmed pot that you just cooked your pasta in, add butter and heat over medium to melt. Once melted, add flour and stir together until the mixture has either bubbled over or turned into a thick paste. Don’t skip this step, a little pre-cooking here prevents a “flour taste” from the final product.
Pour in a small drizzle of milk, whisking constantly, make sure to smooth out and incorporate any flour clumps that form (pro tip: flour clumps like to hang out at the edges of the pot). Continue in this “drizzle in milk/whisk out clumps” cycle until you’ve added about half your total milk. After that, you can feel free to add milk in larger amounts, as long as you promise to keep checking for clumps!
Once all the milk is incorporated, then add your spices (salt, garlic powder, ground pepper and if you’re using it, the nutritional yeast/mustard powder). Stir and bring mixture to a low simmer. You want to see little bubbles forming and steam rising from the top. This will take a few minutes and you may need to put a lid on your sauce to help bring the heat up.
After you have the sauce simmering, adjust heat to medium low and let cook for roughly 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently from the bottom of the pot to prevent burning. You’re looking for your milk mixture to thicken. You know it’s done when you have more of a thick sauce or batter rather than hot milk. I like to check by seeing if the mixture thickly coats the back of my spoon. This process takes a while, so it’s a good time for a dance break.
Once you have a thick sauce going, it’s time to take off the heat completely. Add the pumpkin puree and mix to incorporate. Then add all of your cheeses, a handful at a time. Stir your sauce between handfuls so that each cheese melts before adding more. Once you have everything melted and mixed in, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Add back in the drained pasta, mix it all together. Woo-hoo, we made it!
If you’re someone who believes that macaroni and cheese can only be baked in the oven, I respect the hustle. You can move the entire mixture to an oven-safe casserole pan and bake it uncovered at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. That said, I’m also a baked mac-n-cheese purist and I promise you that this is the only stovetop recipe I’ve ever loved. I hope you give it a chance.
That’s it! You are done! Portion it out, grab a fork, and go to town!
“You know, I’ve always wanted a child. And now I think I’ll have one… on TOAST!” -Winifred Sanderson
Brownies Stuffed to the Gills with Halloween Candy
Based on Smitten Kitchen’s ‘My Favorite Brownies’ and AverieCooks.
Makes one 8×8 pan of brownies, which I cut into 9 squares. Want to make them vegan? Start by halving this recipe and then skip down to where I add the candy (be sure to use your vegan favorites!) Want to skip the hardcore baking all together? This is great opportunity for box mix! This one is my favorite. After you make your mix, skip down below and join us where I add in the candy.
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup flour
- 12 to 15 “fun-size” or “mini” candy bars, the majority of them sliced in half (you want roughly 25 pieces of candy total)
- 1/4 cup colorful candy, for topping (I went with M&Ms, I expect Reese’s Pieces or Skittles would also be fantastic)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips, for topping
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 inch square baking pan (you can spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray, melt a small pat of butter and use it to glaze the pan, or skip both of those methods and line the baking pan with parchment paper if you have it. If you do, allow room for overhang.)
Add chocolate and butter into a small or medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low, using a spoon to mix chocolate and butter together as it melts.
It will feel awkward at first, while the chocolate is still solid, but do your best. Once the chocolate starts to soften it will all come together. When only a few unmelted bits of chocolate remain, turn off heat and move pot to a cool (not in use) stovetop burner. Continue stirring until everything is smooth and fully melted.
Pour chocolate sauce into mixing bowl. Pour in sugar, mix together.
Then add in eggs, mix together.
What I have to tell you next is a bit of a nuisance. It’s an old baker’s trick that I promise you will give you the shiny, crackly brownie top and fudgey brownie center that deep down you crave. You want to whisk together the eggs, sugar, and chocolate sauce for a FULL 2 MINUTES BY HAND. It’s annoying. Unless you’re Michelle Obama or Gina Rodriguez, your arms will likely get tired. But there is no other way. Set a timer and get to work! Think of it as going to the gym, a quick exercise routine before the chocolatey goodness.
(Don’t care for the workout? You can also skip the above step. Your brownies will still be delicious.)
After the two minutes have passed, you should notice that the batter feels more loose and looks shinier. Then you will add in your vanilla and salt, giving them a quick mix in. Then add in your flour, the batter will be thick so a large wooden spoon or spatula may be necessary at this point.
Scrape 1/2 batter into prepared 8×8 inch pan. Spread into an even layer. Lay the mini candy bars on the batter, distributed evenly into as close to a single layer as possible. It doesn’t matter if the “cut side” of the candy is up or down, but you want it to be as flat as possible for what comes next.
Top candy layer with remaining batter. Gently smooth with a spatula or butter knife. Evenly distribute your colorful candy pieces and chocolate chips over the top.
Bake in preheated oven for 25- 30 minutes, or until toothpick or fork inserted into brownie comes out free of raw batter. You will likely have a few moist crumbs that clinging, but that’s fine. A little bit of melted chocolate or caramel from the candies would be also ok.
They will smell amazing, but you must let them cool in pan for at least 15- 20 minutes or they will fall apart and your hard work will be for nothing. Promise me, ok?
Brownies cut easiest after being allowed to cool completely (closer to an hour). Most people will let them cool in their pan. If you used parchment paper, you can also use the overhang to lift the brownies out of the pan after the original 15 minutes and let them cool on a counter top. Once cooled (or when you can’t stand it anymore), cut into desired pieces and serve.
… And we’re done! Scoop out a bowl of some gooey cheesy pasta, grab your brownies, a beer, any extra candy and plop down on your couch! There’s a movie waiting for you!
Do you love Hocus Pocus as much as I do? Is there another Halloween movie or tradition that makes your heart sing? Do you have any tricks for making a night in feel special? Even if this movie night isn’t for you, do you have any other Halloween plans? Tell me all about it!