Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Hail to the Deadites
Director/Writer: Steve Villeneuve
Starring: Patricia Tallman, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Richard Domeier, Dan Hicks and Bruce Campbell
HAIL TO THE DEADITES is a documentary about the fans of the EVIL DEAD films and explores the classic franchise's undying and ever-growing popularity.
C. I’m always nervous about documentaries that deal with this subject matter, because as a Michigan horror fan that spent many years obsessed with The Evil Dead series, this documentary is playing to me. However, I find myself wondering if it’s just playing “fan service” and if I wasn’t a Deadite (name for Evil Dead fans) would this still work as an interesting piece. Would my mother-in-law find it interesting? Would this inspire my teenage niece who’s just getting into more serious horror to search out the series? Does it stand on its own or would it be better as a special feature on the blu-ray? For all those questions I’d have to say, yes and no. I believe you’d have to be at least curious about the horror genre and have knowledge of the series’ existence to really understand its following. But it has enough explanation for most to appreciate what Evil Dead has done for the fans. Hail to the Deadites, while about the fans of the series examines everything. We’re not just getting talks about Campbell and Raimi or the series’ influence on the horror world, which has been common with those movies for many years. This covers everything because, as mentioned in the doc, fans of this series want to be emerged in every aspect (special effects, props, cinematography, etc.). That is the crucial element for a documentary like this, giving us the whole picture and really showcasing the heart and soul behind its longevity. Unfortunately there’s not a ton to say. It does what it intended and since it is a documentary there’s little complaint about certain topics we’d harp on with a fictional movie. J. Full disclosure: I absolutely adore The Evil Dead franchise. If you don’t, it should go without saying that this documentary isn’t going to be your thing. It was refreshing to see something that focused mainly on die hard fans but also had some of the cast and creators present as well. Of particular interest to me was some of the “lesser known” but no less important players such as Sarah Berry (Annie Knowby), Kathy Wesley DePaiva (Bobby Joe) and Richard Domeier (Ed Getley, all from Evil Dead 2). Speaking of cast and creators, it was awesome to see FX maestro Tom Sullivan play a decent part as I personally haven’t really had much exposure to him over the years for whatever reason. He’s a great dude with a warm soul and seems game to talk Evil Dead whenever and about whatever.
The fan stuff was pretty amazing in its own right if for nothing else than to see some of the craziest, coolest, most badass Evil Dead collections of everything imaginable. Each of the fan segments also detailed some unique and memorable ways the franchise has made an impact on their lives which was cool to see.
I enjoyed the hell outta this and the only thing that made me a little teary-eyed (minus some of the fan stories) was seeing horror conventions and knowing that those mass gatherings are simply a long way off in our current reality. K. I was a bit worried going into this documentary that it might be one note or repetitive but the excitement of the fans is truly infectious. Being a lifelong Evil Dead fan, it was interesting to hear the stories of other fans, how they discovered the films and what they mean to them. It was also surprisingly emotional to hear some of their stories, particularly a proposal that takes place at one of the conventions and the story of a child named after Ash but sadly passed away in infancy. In addition to the fans, there were interviews with the cast of Evil Dead 1 & 2. All in all, it was a really fun watch and a little bittersweet to see people congregating at conventions given the current state of the world.
C. I think we’re all in agreement that this is a love letter to the fans and what sets it apart from your standard “special features” documentary is its ability to find that emotional core. To keep viewers engaged even if they are not specifically interested in the material. J. Joe Bob would say, “Check it out!” K. Again, we’re all on the same page here. It’s a lot of fun and very interesting to hear from Tom Sullivan, the other cast members aside from Campbell, and all the fans themselves. Especially their personal stories about what the films mean to them. Bloodhound’s average score: 4 out of 5