Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise has developed quite the fan following over the years. From the original Evil Dead in 1981 to Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz, fans can’t get enough of Ashley J. Williams and his boomstick. That rabid fandom is the subject of Hail to the Deadites, an all new documentary from writer/director Steve Villeneueve. This indie fandom study has been hitting the festival circuit lately to great press and solid reviews. We got a chance to check it out recently as part of 2020’s Nightmare’s Film Festival. Is it as groovy as people have been saying?
Check out the trailer below, then read on for all the details!
Hail To The Deadites Synopsis
“Inspired by the 1981 classic’s cult following, HAIL TO THE DEADITES is a documentary about the fans of the EVIL DEAD franchise. Through interviews with the cast, crew, collectors, fans, freaks and geeks, HAIL TO THE DEADITES seeks to illuminate the darkest reaches of the EVIL DEAD franchise’s undying and still-growing popularity, a popularity that has spawned four films, a TV series, comic books, figurines, and surpassed even its creator’s wildest dreams. HAIL TO THE DEADITES puts the spotlight on the fans that cultivated and spread this groovy pop-culture infection! It celebrates those who’ve celebrated the films!
The documentary features interviews with Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Tom Sullivan, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Sarah Berry, Rick Domeier and Bill Moseley.
Here’s a look at the official poster art!
First Things First
Before we go anywhere, I just have to say, I’m a HUGE fan of the Evil Dead franchise. I discovered Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, quite by accident, and shared the VHS gory, er glory, with my high school classmates over lunch hour on a high school VCR/AV cart. My love for the sequel led me to track down the original, which I also adored. True indie horror! Army of Darkness came out a few years later when I was in college, and of course my friends and I loved that as well. We were among the legion of nerds who took joy in annoying Bruce Campbell at every turn to ask “When will we see Evil Dead 4?” He loved it. Don’t let him tell you he didn’t.
I first met Bruce Campbell at Flashback Weekend in Chicago along with “The ladies of the Evil Dead” and FX creator Tom Sullivan. They were all wonderful people, and so good to their fans. I got them all to sign my Anchor Bay “Book of the Dead” edition of Evil Dead. Bruce was kind enough to take the extra time to pose with my friends and I as a group after the signings. From that experience, it’s easy to see how Evil Dead fandom has grown almost exponentially since then. And what a great subject for a documentary!
So there. I’ve cleared the air. I’m a fan. And in case you can’t tell, I was super excited to check out Hail to the Deadites!
What’s To Like?
This isn’t some low rent, found footage, smart phone camera documentary. The filmmakers took the time to professionally edit the footage and add stylized transitions, title cards, and the whole nine yards. The audio, too, is well mixed and consistent throughout. You can’t help but admire the production polish from beginning titles to end credits.
The soundtrack is fantastic and fun. I didn’t realize there were so many Evil Dead inspired songs out there! I imagine some of them are from Evil Dead: The Musical (which I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen yet), but still. It all adds to the fun and the charm. I don’t know if there’s going to be an official Soundtrack release for this, but if there is, you can bet I’m going to hunt it down.
This film has a lot of heart. Some of the fan stories presented here are truly touching. You can really tell how much this franchise means to these people and how much it has changed their lives.
Bruce Campbell is great. Every story he tells is gold. It was great to see convention footage from the bulk of the franchise cast, including Bruce’s brother, and the late Dan Hicks. It’s easy to see how much this franchise has touched the lives of the stars, as much as it has the fans.
What’s Not To Like?
If you’re looking for trivia and rarities and behind the scenes info about the Evil Dead franchise, for the most part you won’t find it here. This is all about the fans. That’s great, but I really wish there was a bit more movie meat for the hardcores in the viewing audience. You know, something the fans that are the die hard subjects in the documentary would want to see! The closest thing is probably a fun chat with Bruce’s brother and a gentleman who visited the original cabin.
While it’s always wonderful to see Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi, it’s a shame they couldn’t get Sam Raimi to make an appearance, however brief. This franchise is, ultimately his baby after all. I get it. Sam’s in the big leagues now. Still, it really would have been nice to hear something from the man who ultimately brought this franchise to life.
There isn’t any footage from any of the films or the Ash vs. Evil Dead series to be found. I imagine it’s a rights issue (and a cost issue), and that’s fine, but you need to prepare yourself. This documentary is all about the fans and the conventions.
Hail To The Deadites – Final Thoughts
If you’re an Evil Dead fan, you’re going to want to see Hail To The Deadites. It’s heartfelt and fun and you’re going to relate to most of these fans. The tale of one of the Ash impersonators and his crowdfunded quest to meet Bruce Campbell is particularly fun. You can tell Steve Villenueve loves the source material and poured his heart and soul into this Doc. Is it a deep dive into the films themselves? No. But if you want to cruise the convention circuit and hang out with fans who love the franchise as much as you do, this documentary is your jam.
What do you think? Are you an Evil Dead fan? Are you looking forward to checking out Hail to the Deadites? Tell us in the comments!