NFF Masquerade Review: ‘Hail to the Deadites’

What kind of fan are you? Are you a casual fan who simply appreciates a few specific films or franchises and makes it a point to revisit them over and over? Do you go a step farther and celebrate them by buying merchandise and collectibles? Do you participate in online groups dedicated to your favorite thing? Do you go out of your way to attend fan events or conventions? Do you cosplay?

Obviously there are many different forms of film fandom and odds are high that you indulge in your own form of fandom for something. We all do to one degree or another. I would hope that you are a positive fan of your favorite thing and not a toxic one. After all, the world could use way more of the former and way less of the latter these days, especially right now.

What we have here is a documentary that is centered around Evil Dead fans. People who have come to love and worship at the altar of this bizarre, madcap comedic horror franchise that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Robert Tapert, and company fired up in the early ’80s with The Evil Dead and then continued with two theatrical sequels, the 2013 remake, and a recent TV series follow-up. While Campbell himself weighs in on matter, as do many of the other actors who have appeared in the franchise, the primary focus here are the fans themselves.

Good fans, at that. Very little time is spent discussing obnoxious trolls (be they online or on a convention floor). Instead, the film showcases not only how these fans’ love of Deadites and Ashley J. Williams brings them joy, but also in how they bring joy to one another. Whether it’s defending each other from aforementioned online trolls, entertaining one another with cosplay performances, or talking FX guru Tom Sullivan into helping out with a marriage proposal, this is a celebration, not a warning. It’s endearingly sweet, which goes a long way towards smoothing over any deficiencies with the rest of the film.

Hail to the Deadites does get repetitive from time to time and doesn’t have a whole lot to say about fandom in the macro sense, but that’s fine. This is the kind of documentary that will probably find a nice home on Shudder (or some other streaming platform) and make for good afternoon viewing for those who are interested. It’s not a must-see, but if you’re looking for a reminder for how good-natured fans can be outside of the recent horrors of Gamergate, Comicsgate, and militant SnyderBros, this will give you the ray of sunshine that you’re craving.

Hail to the Deadites is a documentary about Evil Dead fandom. It was written and directed by Steve Villeneuve. The film was produced by Glen Alexander, Steve Villeneuve, and Rob DiLauro. It stars Steve Villeneuve, Bruce Campbell, Tom Sullivan, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Richard Domeier, Theresa Tilly, Sarah Berry, Ted Raimi, Bill Moseley, John Fallon, and Chris Alexander.

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