Hemoglobin and laughs flow unimpeded in Beck's Evil Dead

 Ever wonder what happens if you jam a high-revving chainsaw straight into a zombie's jugular? Well ... Up to three geysers of demon blood shoot out in graceful arcs and splatter anyone within 20 feet. And in a small theater, that means some front-row customers are going home with plasma on their Dockers.  

Of course, you just might want to position yourself under one of those blood fountains. Evil Dead: The Musical, now at the Beck Center, combines the first two Evil Dead movies into a rock-music extravaganza featuring decapitation, dismemberment and more fake (and easy-to-clean-up) blood than was spilled during the entire run of ER.  

The Evil Dead cult flicks of the 1980s were directed by Sam Raimi and featured some questionable special effects (in the original low-budget version, the rotting flesh of the zombies looked like bad claymation paired with oozing, weirdly tinted oatmeal). But there was an infectious spirit of manic, stomach-churning, harmless anarchy that has inspired a substantial following. 

The same is true in the musical version, with book and lyrics by George Reinblatt and music by Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond, Melissa Morris and Reinblatt. Borrowing freely from other musicals, especially The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horrors, Evil Dead manages to put its own stamp of giggly ghastliness on the horror genre. 

Directed with fiendish glee by Scott Spence, two horny college couples and one female grind are on a spring-break jaunt to an isolated (of course) cabin in the woods.  They soon stumble upon the owner's Book of the Dead and, once they crack that text (probably the first book they've opened all semester), they summon an evil force from the forest.  

One by one, the visitors (starting with bookish Cheryl) are transformed into ghouls, celebrated in the rousing tune "Look Who's Evil Now." It's left to Ash, the group leader and part-time employee at S-Mart, to fend off the army of the night. It's no easy task, since Ash has to saw off his own hand (the demons turned it against him) and battle with his girlfriend Linda's severed head, which has the vise-like bite of a pit bull.

The Beck cast handles all this carnage with bottomless spurts of energy and just enough overacting to make it the romp it should be. As Ash, Dan Folino has the comical swagger and portentous mien of a corny horror-flick hero, and his golden pipes do justice to all his songs (particularly "I'm Not a Killer," sung while elbow deep in blood). 

As Ash's sister Cheryl, Amiee Collier has plenty of fun with her character's demon side, although the script tries too hard to give her an extended series of forced puns. Josh Theilan is properly obnoxious as Scott, a dim bulb with a perpetual hard-on, and Megan DePetro (an understudy) is every inch a comely coed as Linda, until you-know-what happens.  

A special nod goes to the special-effects designers, Folino and P.J. Toomey, since the gallons of blood jet, ooze and even drop out of nowhere, right on cue. It all makes Evil Dead a gory, campy, rollicking delight.



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