Ever since my best friend showed me the original Evil Dead when I was a teenager, I was a fan from the start. The sequels, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, were viewed by myself in a short amount of time afterwards, the latter film being my favourite one. The TV series, Ash vs Evil Dead, was also something I looked forward to, and it more than met my expectations. The franchise is one that has grown from strength to strength; even the 2013 remake was fantastic and suitably gory! As such, Hail to the Deadites is a documentary that celebrates the franchise, but mainly the fans.
Narrated by Scott Shaw, Hail to the Deadites explores the fanbase of the cult horror series, and what introduced them to the films and how it’s impacted their lives. Ultimately, it’s a film created by fans for fans. During its running time, we’re met with the biggest Evil Dead fans, including a very convincing Ash J. Williams cosplayer (named Andy King). The Broadway musical is also shown, as well as footage from various horror conventions around the USA. Interviews are also conducted with some of the original cast members, including Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell. These different perspectives into fans’ lives and why they like the film series, as well as the cast’ opinions on its rise in popularity makes for a different type of horror documentary.
From the interviews, Hail To The Deadites also highlights the growth of horror conventions in the USA, and how the popularity of them has helped the cult film series. From someone born and raised in the UK, it’s interesting and eye-opening to see the treatment the film got, compared to how the UK treated them. The Video Nasty era was at its peak when the film was released, so it subsequently got banned straight away, and became known as the number one Video Nasty. It stayed banned for three years before being removed from the list. So, it’s fair to say that the UK were late to the chainsaw-wielding party! But, because the USA got to view the film straight away, the love for the franchise is stronger and that is obvious throughout this film. Not only do fans love the film but, in some cases, they found their best friends or loved ones from it. As someone who found their best friends through a Youtube channel, this aspect of the documentary resonated with me the most.
Due to the filmmakers’ not being able to get all of the film rights (each film in the trilogy belong to a different production company), it gives them the creative freedom to do recreations of the films’ scenes and these are delightful to watch. From live action fan films to Claymation, the documentary lets us see the films in a way we’ve never seen them before. My favourite recreations were black and white hand rotoscoped scenes from the trilogy, a technique that I had never seen before.
Unfortunately, Hail To The Deadites was a little too long, considering the subject matter that it was focusing on. This made some aspects of the film seem repetitive, and the pacing is quite slow. The balance between music and dialogue was also sometimes uneven, with some narration being too quiet to hear. Overall, Hail To The Deadites is a documentary made specifically for Evil Dead fans. Non-fans won’t find anything too familiar here, but fans of the series will find this delightful and insightful.