HAIL TO THE DEADITES **** Canada 2020 Dir: Steve Villeneuve. 79 mins
Director Steve Villeneuve, who made the indie horror love letter documentary UNDER THE SCARES (2010), wears his EVIL DEAD-loving heart on his bloody sleeve with this unashamedly cuddly feature about the fanbase surrounding Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, complete with tribute songs and a large ensemble of key ED personnel. The opening proudly boasts about how, in the absence of actual clips from the franchise (with which anyone watching will be more than familiar anyway), everything here is created by EVIL DEAD fans, including Lee Hardcastle’s wonderful Claymation EVIL DEAD In Sixty Seconds short.
A long term horror fan who decided to narrow his increasingly unwieldy genre collection to EVIL DEAD merchandise, Villeneuve sets out to meet the series’ biggest fans and interview accessible cast and crew to mark the release of the well received 2013 remake. An experienced Ash cosplayer sets out to meet Bruce Campbell, while The Chin pays a home visit to the lucky winner of IGN’s EVIL DEAD fan contest. Villeneuve meets die-hard collectors and Bruce’s brother Don while capturing a couple of genuinely poignant vignettes in which key members of the EVIL DEAD cast and crew display great thoughtfulness in dealing with individual fans. Tom Sullivan in particular comes across as a sweet guy as he enthuses about the enduring fan love and plays a major role in the romantic union of two EVIL DEAD fans.
Bruce is a characteristically charming presence in the documentary, relating to the ongoing adulation he receives by explaining how much he would have loved to have met William Shatner three decades ago. While Campbell reflects on the tendency for certain fans to be quiet in person and avoid eye contact, the film is affectionate about its subject, portraying the loyal real-life Deadites with warmth and no judgement. It’s slickly put together, serves up an appetising platter of EVIL DEAD goodies and lots of welcome talking heads (Bill Moseley, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Dan Hicks, et al) – but most importantly, it celebrates the kindness between the creatives and the viewers while never talking down to the latter.
Review by Steven West