FANTASIA ’20— Evil Dead Doc ‘Hail to the Deadites’ is a Touching Ode to One of Horror’s Most Fervent Fanbases

A still from documentary 'Hail to the Deadites'. The image shows two photo frames on a mantel piece with a piece of twig coming out from the left hand side. The images in the frames show Bruce Campbell, star of Evil Dead, at conventions meeting fans.
Fantasia Festival

From the opening moments of Hail to the Deadites— a new documentary about the cultural impact of the Evil Dead franchise, you know you’re in for a treat. The opening credits, accompanied by a blaring rock anthem detailing the events of the first film, make it clear that this documentary is one made by fans for the fans. 

Full disclaimer: one of my favourite movies of all time is Evil Dead 2, so colour me surprised that this documentary focused on super fans like myself. Normally when a documentary about the cultural impact of a piece of media is made,  it comes off as a fluff piece. Regurgitating the same knowledge and behind-the-scenes tidbits that we’ve known for ages. Instead, Hail to the Deadites puts its lens on the fans themselves and the importance of these films that many hold dear.

Lovingly named “Deadites”, fans of the Evil Dead series here discuss its cultural impact and the influence it has on fans to this very day. Events ranging from marriage proposals, fan meetings, cosplays, musicals— as well as the myriad of Evil Dead merchandise collections showcased. The documentary provides knowledgeable insight into a passionate fan base unlike any other in the horror community.

A still from documentary 'Hail to the Deadites'. The image shows two Evil Dead fans, a young woman and a man in his 30s, in front of a desk filled with Evil Dead action figures, many posters from the films are on the wall behind them.
Fantasia Festival

An interesting part of the documentary is the focus on Tom Sullivan, who was part of the art department for the original trilogy. His art and prop work was essential to the style and overall vibe of the Evil Dead films that make it stand out from other horror franchises. His insight into the inner workings of the films is definitely something super-fans will appreciate as he’s not a face that pops up too often in documentaries about the franchise.

Lead star Bruce Campbell as well as others involved in the series are incredibly humble in their interviews, and grateful for the “Deadites” for their part in forming the lasting legacy of their work. In an era where meeting your heroes isn’t always recommended, it’s refreshing to see horror royalty be so humble and welcoming, regardless of what type of fan you are. For the most part the reviews come off as genuine and heartfelt, as there are genuinely touching and heart breaking moments— never in my years did I expect a documentary about the Evil Dead trilogy to move me to the point of tears.

From touching moments to humble meetings and fan appreciation, Hail to the Deadites provides a thoughtful and loving look at a film whose fan base is as rabid as the monsters from the films themselves. The Evil Dead trilogy to this day remains one of the most unique horror films and Hail to the Deadites proves that its fan base is no exception to that tradition.

Hail to the Deadites enjoyed its World Premiere at the virtual edition of Fantasia Festival 2020, and is available to watch at the festival on demand

by Reyna Cervantes

Reyna (She/They) is located in southern California! They are an aspiring screenwriter with experience in sound design and production work, their 3 favorite films are Evil Dead 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Frances Ha. All of their social handles are @JFCDoomblade (twitter, insta, letterboxd).

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