FrightFest 2020: Hail to the Deadites (Review)

Director/Writer: Steve Villeneuve

The Overview:
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. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
I’ll be the first person to admit that horror is not my genre at all, but there are a couple of notable exceptions to this. Horror classics such as The Shining, The Thing, and Psycho all appear very high up in my favourite films of all-time for example, and I have always had a special place in my heart for the films that are the subject of this heartfelt documentary as well.

Whilst critically, The Evil Dead films were underwhelming, they have since garnered cult status, and a rabid group of fans – who call themselves the “Deadites”. As someone who unironically considers Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (another cult disasterpiece) as one of their favourite films, the idea of cult fandom is something which is definitely appealing to me.

Hail to the Deadites is a loving tribute to both the fans and the franchise, with a heartfelt appreciation for them both. It is evident that this passion project documentary is made by those who hold these films very dear to them, and it is an interesting spin to instead focus on the fans and why they love it so much, as opposed to going too in-depth into the films themselves.

This struck the perfect balance for me as I love both the first and second Evil Dead films, however I have not seen Army of Darkness. That being said, I still feel like this documentary and the fandom, would welcome me with open arms, as through the fan’s testimonies it is evident that it doesn’t really matter the order in which you watch them (one person for example watched in the order 2, 3, then 1, with many years in between, unaware the others existed!), all that matters is the shared passion that people have for these films.

I find collecting memorabilia very fascinating as well, and it is something I can absolutely relate to, having something of a Jaws “holy grails” list myself. My collection is absolutely put to shame by some of the fans in this film however, and the passion and knowledge they have when they show the cameras around their expansive treasure troves is so infectious and charming. Along the way, we also meet some very convincing Ash cosplayers, the cast of an Evil Dead musical (yes really!), and legions of completely committed fans who all have their own personal stories to tell.

What caught me off-guard was just how touching this documentary was. We see Tom Sullivan, the man behind the special effects of the Evil Dead movies, being involved in the engagement between two fans, and a very touching story of a local radio presenter who named his baby after the hero of the franchise, and who tells the story of the tragic passing of his son.

Through all the interviews with fans, it is clear just how much this film means to people. Whilst it could be easy to dismiss the films themselves as b-movie horror, hearing the stories of those who are evidently so passionate about them is truly delightful. I never thought a documentary about The Evil Dead films would make me feel this uplifted, but there you have it!

Of course, there’s plenty of fun along the way, and the interviews from the man himself, Bruce Campbell, are definitely amongst the highlights. I have now put “Meet Groovy Bruce” very high up on my bucket list as a result of this; he seems like such a genuine and nice guy with a real passion and appreciation for the fans.

At a time when people are really missing the shared experiences of just being with other people who love the same things that you do, this film is like a lovely warm hug, reminding you that whatever you’re passionate about, there are hundreds of like-minded people out there, and that in itself is quite comforting. It made me miss conventions, and festivals, and film screenings, and it also really, really made me want to watch all of the Evil Dead films again! A lovely, honest, and heart-warming film about fandom that is a welcome break of joy in amongst the screams of FrightFest!

★★★★☆

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