“Evil Dead” rocked and shocked the world when it was released in 1981. 39 years later, it has spawned 2 sequels, a remake/reboot, and a 3-season television series, all as entertaining as can be. Nearly four decades later, the franchise still upholds a loyal and intense following, as much for its legendary star, Bruce Campbell, as it does for its practical effects, its brilliant directing, and so much more. Over the course of seven years, director Steve Villeneuve put together a documentary created by and for “Evil Dead” fans, a.k.a. “Deadites”. Giving known and lesser-known individuals a chance to express themselveswas important to Villeneuve, thus creating “Hail to the Deadites” which made its world premiere at Fantasia Internal Film Festival’s online edition of 2020.
Accompanied by his long-time friend, Martin Bruyère, our director tours horror conventions, among many places,and meets with cast and crew of the original films in addition to their biggest, die-hard fans to grasp a little of their magic that creates what the “Evil Dead” phenomenon is. Hilarious anecdotes and authentic movie props parade onscreen to the delight of any Deadite. The main focus of the documentary, however, revolves around its fans. From involving the original special effects artist, Tom Sullivan, in a fan’s marriage proposal, to Bruce Campbell cosplayer lookalikes, to the search for the “Ultimate Evil Dead Fan”,to countless others showing off their “Evil Dead” memorabilia, the emotional connection of the fans who are ready to drive countless miles and stand in line for hours just to be a part of an “Evil Dead” panel discussion is displayed. We even get a glimpse of what seems to be an entertaining experience known as “Evil Dead: The Musical”.
Half of the documentary revolves around discussions with cast and crew from the classic films, while the other half focuses on unknown fans of the movies. Regardless who is being interviewed, the topic at hand is definitely the passion and sentimental attachment emanating from the Deadites. It is entertaining to see just how driven and hungry some fans are through their testimonies and collections in addition to some anecdotes that will undoubtedly stretch a smile across your face. What’s interesting is that no scenes from the original trilogy were used throughout the documentary, putting the spotlightinstead on fan films when mentioning the movies, so as to stay on-topic.
I even had a moment of personal heartbreak during an interview with a radio DJ, recounting the heart complications of his son, whom he named “Ash”, because he knew he would be a fighter. Having a daughter, myself, who was born with heart complications, this tore open a scar that just can’t seem to heal quite properly for me, and it may make you shed a tear, as well.
Despite its short length (78 minutes, including the credits (which include some cool extra snippets of interviews with the King himself, Bruce Campell, Ted Raimi, Tom Sullivan, and many more)), some moments do seem redundant and stretch on, especially when ultimate Deadites show off their “Evil Dead” memorabilia.
All in all, it is a pleasant documentary to watch lightheartedly. Don’t expect any ground-breaking information in regards to the films being revealed to the audience; that’s not its goal, nor focus. We are simply on an enjoyable roadtrip with Martin Bruyère and Steve Villeneuve, meeting “Evil Dead’s” greatest legends and its most extreme Deadites that it spawned. There’s something enticing and fascinating about the evilness displayed in the “Evil Dead” trilogy, and especially with Bruce Campbell and his famous character, “Ash”. He’s one of the rare “good guys” admired by horror fans, under his spell due to his natural charisma and sarcastic attitude. As the renown Michael Gingold (former managing editor and Editor-in-Chief of “Fangoria” and editor of “Rue Morgue”) puts it: He’s kind of the final girl who just so happens to be a guy.”
Any “Evil Dead” fan should definitely give “Hail to the Deadites” a look, as they’ll see a little (or perhaps a lot) of themselves throughout this documentary. A pleasing 7/10 is attributed to it.
Article written by SIMON ROTHER