Horror fans are often some of the best, most dedicated fans out there. This year’s Fantasia International Film Festival highlights one group of fans by screening the documentary Hail to the Deadites.
Documentary writer and director, Steve Villeneuve (Under the Scares, The Mask of James Henry), focuses on fans of The Evil Dead film franchise. The franchise includes the three original films, The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness, as well as a “requel” of the same name and a TV series, Ash vs. Evil Dead, that lasted for three seasons on STARZ. Villeneuve sought out fans of the franchise, known as “Deadites,” to learn more about why they love the films and how they show that love.
Hail to the Deadites introduces many individuals who are considered superfans of the franchise. These are people who go to every convention to meet those who worked in front of and behind the camera. They are collectors of props, action figures, posters, clothing, and other physical media related to the film. It’s fascinating to not only see how much people love the films, but also the lengths they are willing to go for the film, including spending exorbitant amounts of money and traveling across oceans.
It is interesting to see how fans typically align with one of the three original films more than the others. Often is has to do with whatever film they saw first. Tonally, The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness are very different films, despite all following the same character and being from the mind of writer and director Sam Raimi.
Hail to the Deadites also interviews the many crew and cast members, especially from the first two films. This includes the legendary Bruce Campbell, who played protagonist Ash in all three films and the TV show. These interviews dive into the popularity of the film and how fans’ love of the franchise helps many of their careers. There are a few interactions between fans and individuals involved with the film, specifically Campbell himself and practical effects guru Tom Sullivan, that brought tears to my eyes.
Hail to the Deadites brings light to a fandom that has been going strong since 1981. Villenueve not only highlights how the fans love the franchise and helped to make it such a success, but how that love helped the careers of those who worked on the films. The documentary also shows a connection between fans and celebrities that seems to be unique to the horror genre and can be seen in all the horror-specific conventions where fans can meet celebrities from their favorite films as well as other fans. Hail to the Deadites is a fascinating documentary for any film lover to watch, but it’s a must-watch for fans of The Evil Dead franchise.