While the Evil Dead series lags behind many of the best known horror franchises when it comes to quantity, it stands head and shoulders above many by its massive fanbase always hungry for more comedy and gore filled outings for the demons of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis. When Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell brought the world a bloody tale of Deadites and decapitation in 1981, neither could have anticipated that the Evil Dead would still be going stronger than ever forty years later. Now the documentary Hail to the Deadites will bring back all the memories and more when it arrives On Demand this summer.
Hail To The Deadites previously did the rounds at festivals, but is now heading into the homes of the fans who have kept the series alive for so many years. While the documentary includes interviews with Campbell and others involved in the making of the original video nasty, where it breaks away from other retrospective pieces is by putting much of its focus on the passionate followers of the movie series rather than the films themselves. With a multitude of crew, collectors and Evil Dead geeks on board, Hail To the Deadites attempts to delve into why the franchise just keeps on growing in popularity from the fans who make it so.
From its creeping, malevolent roots back in 1981, the Evil Dead has delivered two direct sequels and a three season TV series, as well as a reboot, comic books, toy lines, multiple video games and now a new movie is heading into production. All of this to the delight and surprise of its creator, Raimi, who never believed it would ever be more than a cheap and nasty movie that he made on a shoestring budget.
One thing that helped cement the movie's cult status and virtually sealed its position in popular culture, was it becoming one of the first films to be branded with the "video nasty" tag attributed to some of the most grizzly and disturbing movies of the 70s and 80s. If it was worth that label, then it was worth seeing, and that was enough to instantly boost its popularity in pirate video circles when it was banned in many countries.
Documentary maker Steve Villeneuve spoke in a previous interview about how Hail To The Deadites is unique as "some people might find it weird to not see any footage of the franchise in the documentary but this is what I've been aiming for since day one." He continued, "I'm really proud to say that everything you will see or hear in this documentary was created by the fans. So, rev your chainsaws and load your boomsticks, it's time to give the Deadites some sugar, baby!"
While many of its counterparts were churning out new, and mostly below par, movies year on year, the Evil Dead tended to remain dormant between releases. Evil Dead II didn't arrive for six years after the original, and it was another five years before Campbell's Ash returned again in Army of Darkness. While the gap was plugged with several video games, comic books and a remake, it would be 23 years before Campbell would fight the Deadites again in the series Ash Vs Evil Dead. While an hiatus of this length would usually be enough to kill a franchise, the absence of new Evil Dead content instead made fans want it even more. With the newest installment, Evil Dead Rise, set to start filming this month for a release on HBO Max in 2022 and Evil Dead: The Game releasing on multiple game platforms this year, it's fair to say that the franchise very much alive and kicking.
Hail To The Deadites arrives On Demand and Digital HD on 27th July.