Fantasia International Film Festival: Hail to the Deadites (2020) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Fandoms have exploded in the years since the internet became a hub for communities. Hail to the Deadites (2020) celebrates the vast Evil Dead fandom and its growth over the years, as the cult classic continues to find new viewers as movies become more accessible. It’s a topic that applies to so many groups who have started housing conventions, developed cosplayers, and amassed hoarder levels of collectibles. You can either see yourself in the people on the screen – or like I assume – fans of many of the condemning reality shows likely do look down on them from ivory towers of judgment. For me, I saw myself in moments, and in others, shook my head derisively. 

The best part of anything to do with Evil Dead is always going to be Bruce Campbell. Whether you’re a fan of Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, or Army of Darkness…or an amateur who embraces the entirety of the trilogy…Campbell is the highlight, and he gets to showcase quite a range. His charm, wit, and inherent badassness shine through the tons of fake blood doused on him. He does a few interviews, and you get lots of B-roll of him at conventions to satisfy your Campbell craving. 

Director Steve Villeneuve finds several exciting characters to study at varying levels of their fandom. The most compelling is a cosplayer who dresses as Ash and has been told by many that he looks like he could be Campbell’s son. His name eludes me as I’m writing this – but this cosplayer wants to go to this big convention and meet Campbell. However, the cosplay guy is tight on funds. As many of us have done in these modern times, he turns to crowdfunding for his potential trip. The story is compelling, and it opens up some exciting ideas of fandoms. 

My favorite aspect of this documentary is hearing the people involved with the movies embracing their fans. The level of appreciation expressed with the anecdotes they share helps to justify our love of pop culture and the cult of personality our planet seems to have embraced. Some may say that’s a bad thing, but I love pop culture and movies the most. I don’t mind hearing that the people involved with the world we spend so much time discussing, consuming, and buying genuinely appreciate that love. Not solely on a financial level, but at a personal level of satisfaction like when your boss tells you that you’re brilliant for something that you felt was excellent. That validation matters as much as merely believing in yourself. Hearing Bruce Campbell says that a letter from a fan can mean so much to them, as long as that love is expressed healthily. 

The documentary doesn’t offer any significant insights, but it does showcase a world that some may not recognize specifically, but will likely know their own. Nerding out on a topic is something most people can relate to in some capacity. Thus, in a way, we can see ourselves in this movie and connect to it in that way. Hail to the Deadites earns the Decent Watch rating.

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