My first horror convention was a revelation...
...Not only was it incredible to finally connect with others who were just as ravenous and obsessive about the genre as me, but it was such a wonderful surprise to find out that basically 98% of the folks in our community (both fans and creators alike) were insanely kind people. Hail to the Deadites, the new documentary from filmmaker Steve Villeneuve, captures perfectly the warmth and passion of not only the Evil Dead aficionados it focuses on but all horror fandom as well. And right now, with everything as shitty as it is, being reminded of the best parts of our community feels not only refreshing but absolutely vital.
At its core, Hail to the Deadites is a love letter to the folks who live and breathe the legendary franchise, and that description of them is no exaggeration: most of us like or even love the Evil Dead movies, but the people showcased in this documentary have made it a freaking lifestyle. We meet fans who have collected just about every piece of merchandise out there, and others who have tracked down incredible screen-used props and memorabilia. We’re introduced to Ash cosplayers whose attention to detail is so stellar that they even know where each of his various cuts and other bodily flesh wounds are located. And we’re even treated to the story of a young couple whose marriage proposal features an assist from the original Evil Dead special effects wizard Tom Sullivan. Dripping equal parts blood and charm, it’s a film you can’t help but smile at while watching.
The angle Hail to the Deadites takes is a fascinating one. It could have easily been a “making of” picture in the vein of some of the other notable documentaries that have popped up in recent years like Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy or “You’re So Cool Brewster!” - The Story of Fright Night, but so much has already been said about the Evil Dead franchise that it would have run the risk of disappearing amongst the crowd. By instead zeroing in on this microcosm of fandom, it shows us the magnitude of the cultural impact Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and everyone else involved with the films has made. They register deeply with the folks showcased in Hail to the Deadites, and their obsession is a testament to all the things that make Evil Dead great.
But beyond the obsession displayed in the documentary lies a humanity that is infinitely relatable to any horror fan. There’s something so heartwarming about watching a Deadite (the preferred title of all rabid Evil Dead fans) who is visibly nervous about being interviewed on camera have their discomfort melt away and become almost childlike with excitement as they talk about the films they so obviously love. It’s the same passion for horror we all display when speaking to other fans, a passion that can build bridges between people from drastically different walks of life or transcend borders to connect folks who live in different cities, countries, or continents. For a film franchise and genre that has death as a primary theme, it’s amazing to be reminded of how life-affirming our enthusiasm for all things spooky can be.
It’s going to be a long time before horror conventions are something we can all take part in again, but if there’s one thing that Hail to the Deadites has made me hopeful for, it’s the day when those doors open up once more. One day we’ll all be back there sitting in panels, waiting in line for autographs, and picking through movie bins, poster racks, and other weird wares. But while we wait for those days when we’re all together again, take a moment to watch this documentary. You’ll learn about a corner of our community you might not know a lot about and you’ll be reminded of the vitality of our vibrant and diverse community. It might even ignite your passion for all the things we have to look forward to once these dark days are over.
Hail to the Deadites is currently playing the festival circuit from DiggerFilms.
By Pat Brennan