FANTASIA FEST 2020: ‘Hail to the Deadites’

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 Hail to the Deadites

Hail to the Deadites, which is screening at the virtual Fantasia Fest 2020 as a part of the “Documentaries from the Edge” showcase next week, highlights that horror can be wholesome. While many outside of horror communities are often confused by people bonding over films and media that are made to scare and often do so with violence and gore, those within horror know how bonding over films can connect us to others we would have never met otherwise. This is has been the case for me. Horror has connected me to people virtually and in real life in ways that run deeper than bonds over other genres. It’s due in large part, in my opinion, to the emotions that horror makes us feel. Hail to the Deadites is a look at one such community: fans of Evil Dead.

Directed by Steve Villeneuve, Hail to the Deadites is a documentary that on the tin, seems to be a love letter to the Evil Dead franchise. And while there are elements of that, specifically showcasing the film franchise’s impact on people, in truth, the is a film by the community and for the community fondly known as Deadites that has developed around the 1981 cult classic and the subsequent sequels.

The film offers a deep-dive into the fan culture that has built up around it by looking at cosplayers, superfans, and even fan-made content. Through interviews with the cast, crew, collectors, fans, freaks, and geeks, this special doc illuminates the darkest reaches of the Evil Dead franchise’s undying and still-growing popularity. A pop culture icon that has given birth to a TV series, comic books, figurines, and surpassed even its creator’s wildest dreams, Hail to the Deadites offers a look at the beauty of the community that has come from it.

 Hail to the Deadites

Now, if you’ve seen Evil Dead, the word “wholesome” doesn’t necessarily come to mind. While this documentary does showcase some of the history behind the Evil Dead franchise including special effects breakdowns and cast interviews, the heart and soul of this film is the community that has been built around the films. In fact, the opening of the film makes this clear, that everything in the film is the work of Deadites themselves. There is pure love and joy leaping through the screen in every fan interview. From wedding proposals, cosplayers, collectors, and more there is a level of community explored in the film that doesn’t often get enough credit.

While it may be easy to dismiss horror as a solitary experience given the subject matter, horror fans know the communities that are forged through fandom and beyond. The bonds that are created because of an admiration for a piece of media quickly begin to connect you to new people and that one thing in common begins to show the other connections you have. By showcasing this process of connecting with others, Hail to the Deadites is able to showcase what keeps the Evil Dead franchise thriving.

Yes, the films are great and are a part of the pop culture lexicon and have been replicated and spoofed throughout many different mediums. They have a staying power on their own merit. But, it’s the fans that have kept this fire roaring. It isn’t just a community that comes alive for small moments at conventions. No, instead, the Deadites are connected to each other virtually and personally throughout their lives. They explore the history of the franchise together, sometimes traveling to locations used in the film. They make meaningful memories and contributions to the history of the franchise that greatly outweighs the franchise itself.

Horror is wholesome and that’s what Hail to the Deadites shows. While the film is a love letter to Deadites, the Evil Dead franchise, Bruce Campbell, Tom Sullivan, et al., it is also a vital piece of horror history that sheds a light on how fans come together. This film shows the good that can be done in the name of fandom and how film can connect us, even if it’s through an unholy book bound in human flesh.

Hail to the Deadites screened at the virtual Fantasia Festival 2020.

Hail to the Deadites
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    Rating - 9/10
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TL;DR

Horror is wholesome and that’s what Hail to the Deadites shows. While the film is a love letter to Deadites, the Evil Dead franchise, Bruce Campbell, Tom Sullivan, et al., it is also a vital piece of horror history that sheds a light on how fans come together. This film shows the good that can be done in the name of fandom and how film can connect us, even if it’s through an unholy book bound in human flesh.