Directed by Steve Villeneuve
Written by Steve Villeneuve
Starring Bruce Campbell, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweis, Tom Sullivan, Michael Gingold, Ted Raimi and The Fans
The “big four” of American Thrash Metal are, undeniably, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. The legacy of the Big Three Detroit automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, is also not up for dispute. Why then, is another American institution with Detroit ties not considered to be on the same level as the big three of horror, namely Freddy, Jason and Michael? The name of Ash has a right to be included in that pantheon and the new documentary Hail to the Deadites looks to set that name in stone along with the others who just simply lack the charisma of Bruce Campbell A.K.A. The Chin. Premiering at the first ever virtual edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival, director Steve Villeneuve stays sidelined allowing for fans of the Evil Dead franchise to prominently present their massive displays of memorabilia and their most cherished memories to us, unabashed and unedited.
With a for us, by us approach, most of the content is created by the fans highlighting the convention culture and endless camaraderie unique to the horror community. There’s never a sense of competition when it comes to whose collection is more vast or who can recite the Necronomicon passage that awakens an ancient evil. It’s “Khandar estrada khandos thrus indactu nosfrandus khandar dematos khandar,” by the way. (To refresh your memory, “Klaatu Barada Nikto” – the incantation Ash is told to recite in Army of Darkness – is an homage to The Day the Earth Stood Still and it’s also the name of three characters from Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, but I digress). One woman, featured in Hail to the Deadites as the ultimate fan knows that easy trivia and much more. In one scene, Bri Cummings receives a knock on her door from Bruce Campbell himself and he’s even stunned by the levels of her obsession. Every collection shown from merchandise to movie props is glorious and a little disturbing, just like any respectable monster museum should be.
Special makeup effects legend Tom Sullivan is featured heavily in Deadites and is probably the heart of the doc. His affection towards the fans is infectious, especially with one couple who gets engaged while Sullivan looks on with an original Book of the Dead prop and an actual Kandarian Dagger. It’s also heartening to see appearances by the entire original cast of Evil Dead including Ellen Sandweis, Richard DeManicor, Betsy Baker and Theresa Tilly. Legendary horror historian Michael Gingold is also featured showing off his canyon-sized knowledge about the franchise with his usual, affable “aww shucks” demeanor.
Some don’t realize that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 alumni and convention circuit fave Bill Moseley was actually in Army of Darkness, so it’s eye-opening to see him included here as well. He’s the Captain of the Deadites for anyone out there keeping score, so obviously he should be represented as a core contributor to the Three Stooges inspired lunacy of Raimi’s splatstick trifecta of madhouse masterpieces. It was surprising not to see (to the best of my memory) any inclusion of producer Rob Tapert who also went on to help usher in the Ash vs. Evil Dead Starz television series. All three seasons of the show are also not a part of the doc and there are no appearances by fan favorites Dana Delorenzo, Ray Santiago and Lucy Lawless.
But truly, the stars of Villeneuve’s send up are the rabid fans and their never-ending sea of Evil Dead iconography that will rival any other fan’s collection for any other major horror property. It certainly solidifies the Evil Dead franchise as one of the top producers of toys, props, DVDs, Blu-rays, vinyl, models and everything else in between. The sheer amount of merchandise is staggering. You can practically hear people’s wallets emptying out but, it’s clear, the Evil Dead marketing machine never took advantage of its fans. They asked for it. This, obviously, won’t be the end of the road for Evil Dead and, eventually, an expansive documentary in line with Crystal Lake Memories and Never Sleep Again will come out and inevitably become available in countless limited edition versions (remember all those Anchor Bay releases?). For now, leave it to this new, emotionally charged chronicle to be enough to awaken the Fake Shemp in all of us.
Premiering at the first ever virtual edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival, director Steve Villeneuve stays sidelined allowing for fans of the Evil Dead franchise to prominently present their massive displays of memorabilia and their most cherished memories to us, unabashed and unedited.