Tailor-fit for a night-in, Dead Hot: Season of the Witch follows Vanessa Hudgens and GG Magree to Salem, capturing their newfound interest in witchcraft.
I have no memory of discovering Dead Hot: Season of the Witch. I’m not up to date on the life of Vanessa Hudgens, I’m not familiar with the music of GG Magree, I know nothing of witchcraft, and I don’t closely follow the Tubi release schedule. If me knowing that Dead Hot: Season of the Witch exists is enough of a mystery then, how I came to anticipate its release (and why I was so childishly excited when I clicked play on the thing several hours ago) is a real head-scratcher. For Dead Hot: Season of the Witch, is, in fact, ~100 unscripted minutes of Vanessa Hudgens and GG Magree exploring their own witchiness, released directly to Tubi.
To investigate said witchiness, the pair of course travel to Salem, Massachusetts – to meet up with some locals and to visit some spooky places. The contents of Dead Hot: Season of the Witch are thus as such: some makeup-applying and jewellery-equipping montages, a touch of vlogging, some wandering around supposedly haunted settings with the to-be-expected ghost-hunting doo-dahs and gadgets, chunks of chatting with Salem experts, and a fair amount of best-friend-driven banter. The movie plays a bit like a Halloween special of The Kardashian’s might, or a bit like a Top Gear episode made for witch-heads rather than petrol-heads might, or a bit like your favourite influencer got together with Fairuza Balk to make a feature-length YouTube video.
The format of Dead Hot: Season of the Witch is certainly familiar then, pulled from the countless ghost-hunting shows that play on daytime TV, but where the movie is at its best, where it excels amongst its competitors (if my opinion is to be believed), is in that aforementioned banter. It’s in GG Magree habitually saying: “that’s hot”, it’s in the wine-drunk vlogging, it’s in GG Magree asking Vanessa Hudgens if she’s ready to pop her Ouija cherry, it’s in visiting a Waterstones-for-witches whilst wearing matching slip dresses, it’s in GG Magree saying: “let’s go hunting, bitch!” as she walks the entrance stairs of an abandoned building, it’s in the custom, (and, of course matching) bomber jackets.
This side of things does, however, result in a little something the cinema authorities might call ‘tonal whiplash’. One sequence in particular comes to my mind as demonstrating this: the twosome are seen engaged in a ritual in the woods, then they retreat to a nearby bar for some booze, then, now morning, they Google the local area for some notable haunted buildings, then have a little dance in the van they’ve been touring about in, before the oft-present voiceover reveals the pair are at this point actually feeling very “grounded”, and hoping soon “to commune with a spirit with more discipline”.
This kind of switch-up happens often throughout the movie. Another scene sees the pair begin to start baking some cookies before moving on to discuss the ability to love oneself. The sudden changes in intention between one shot and the next, and the frequent distance between the insincerity I’m seeing on screen and the sincerity I’m hearing from the voiceover, makes me wonder if the stars suddenly remembered (or were reminded) in those moments that Dead Hot: Season of the Witch is supposed to be an earnest, self-discovery focussed, witchcraft-centred documentary. Or, perhaps, are these shifts simply a product of the editing process? Is there six days worth of Vanessa Hudgens and GG Magree banter in a digital trash bin somewhere? Because I’d be keen to see that.
Honestly, I’d be keen to see a TV version of this. If eight episodes of Dead Hot: Season of the Witch were playing on late-night telly at the moment, or were just shadow-dropped to some corner of Disney+, I feel we would’ve heard more about it by now. Teenagers would be posting their favourite moments to TikTok, us 20-something hipsters would be gushing about it over some pints, parents would be turning to Etsy in search of some replica bomber jackets to give as birthday presents. The truth is though, it’s not on telly, it’s not on Disney+, and if the current Letterboxd viewer count is anything to go by, Dead Hot: Season of the Witch is likely to live out its days in the shadow of obscurity.
The main thing that makes this movie worth watching however, and not disregarding forever, as far as I can gather, is that it is totally what you make of it. You can tune in to hear Vanessa Hudgens call Siri a stupid slut, to marvel at the degree of personal expression these ladies bring to an often stuffy sub-genre, to be as spooked as you want to be spooked, to watch two obvious pals wave around ghost-hunting gizmos, to learn a little of Salem’s history, to engage with its sisterhood-based narrative, or simply to watch Vanessa Hudgens and GG Magree pick up the keys to a haunted mansion and then collect some grande’s on their way there.
I’m positive Dead Hot: Season of the Witch would work rather well as a hangout movie – gather some friends, some snacks, turn the lights down. I can’t be certain of this though, for I watched this movie alone, on a bright afternoon, in the middle of May. Typically, I would end on that sort of sudden, revelatory look into my movie-watching habits, but is there one thing I have yet to mention that I really ought to: ‘spirit burps’. There’s a scene here in which our central pair, feeling queasy after some ghostly activity, turn to their paranormal consultant for guidance. Said consultant confirms the commonality of nausea in these scenarios, as well as what she terms: ‘spirit burps’. What ensues is, well, a lot of burping. It’s worth seeing.
Dead Hot: Season of the Witch is now available to watch on Tubi.