Feature: Evil Dead: The Musical

It is not every day a terrible old film gets reimagined into a stage musical, but with the B horror trilogy of The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, we luck out. I know these films are really probably outside the timeframe of classic movies, but their place in history is of such cult status that they meet some version of the definition of “classic.” Nevertheless, I could not go without mentioning my enjoyable attendance at a Columbus, Ohio, production of “Evil Dead: The Musical”.

Evil Dead: The Musical

The comedy-horror stage production was created and first staged in 2004 with the approval of film director Sam Raimi and film star Bruce Campbell. For those who do not know the movies, they are the sort of horror flicks that although gory are funny because of bad or over-the-top acting and ridiculous plot elements (a girl gets raped by a tree, for instance). Ryan happens to call the second in the series his favorite film of all time, so I have a certain amount of second-hand knowledge of the trilogy. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is essentially a remake of the first –unless you consider the main character just dumb enough to relive the first film’s events– and is also considered the bloodiest movie of all time based on sheer volume of blood used in the flick. The musical combines plot elements and memorable dialogue from all three movies (the third one takes place after the main character is sent back in time, where he also battles zombies).

Acknowledging that not only do the Evil Dead films have a cult following but that they are actually funnier than they are meant to be, the musical creates a blood-soaked comedy show with songs that combine talented voices with absurd lyrics. The show in Columbus also featured a “splatter zone.” The front-row seats I bought for Ryan’s birthday were not in that zone, but seeing it was mostly empty, we moved to the second row in that area. The splatter was all red-colored water that shot from either the stage or the actors, and really our only complaint about the program was that we were not as gore-covered when we left as we had hoped.

For those who need a plot synopsis: Ash and four friends take a trip to “an old abandoned cabin the woods” (song title) and stumble upon the Necronomicon Exmortus, or book of the dead. They play a recording left by the cabin owner who reads the passages and bring out the zombies. Each character eventually becomes zombified, although Ash manages to inexplicably reverse his fate. He does have to cut off his possessed hand at one point and eventually replaces it with a chainsaw.

The performance of our Columbus show was great, although it probably was not a cup of tea for the old ladies who we assumed were season ticket holders for the production company. It was a hodgepodge of inside jokes with references to a Campbell book “If Chins Could Kill” and Raimi’s direction of Spiderman. The everlasting one liners Ash utters in all three movies are incorporated into the dialogue and always elicited laughter from the audience members in the know.

I have heard rumors of the musical being made into a film and for some time there has been talk of Raimi making an Evil Dead 4 without Campbell, at which Ryan has cringed. Unfortunately, any incarnation without Campbell would likely be a let down to the existing fans. Those movies are the basis for the majority of his fame, which I think he both embraces and abhors.

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