REVIEW: ‘Evil Dead’ a draw for cults

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There’s no formula for how a movie or show achieves ‘cult’ status. But for the devoted followers of the work, their fandom goes beyond a simple appreciation and respect and instead veers into the territory of fanboy obsession.

For many people, only one viewing in a lifetime of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is more than enough. But for devoted fans, a public screening of the movie with costumes, quote alongs, thrown toast and dancing is a necessary monthly experience.

One does not simply like a cult film. One must worship it.

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise, which has spanned three movies and now two TV series, has a place atop the pantheon of cult movies. The story of the heroic S-Mart employee Ash and his bloody battle against evil Deadites, skeleton armies and an angry severed hand is rightly considered to be among the masterpieces of over-the-top art.

So of course, someone was going to make a musical based on the series. And of course it’s going to be filled with ridiculous songs, puns galore and fake blood. So much fake blood.

“Evil Dead: The Musical” is back at Equinox Theater for a third visit since it’s Denver debut in 2013. And it’s just as wonderfully over the top as it’s ever been. The musical combines elements of “Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2,” and “Army of Darkness” to create an absurd comedy about five friends who head out on Spring Break to break into a secluded cabin in the woods and inadvertently raise a demonic force.

This show isn’t tongue in cheek. It’s tongue, hand, arm and chainsaw in cheek. Audience members get soaked with fake blood by water gun wielding stagehands. Bad puns are delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Running gags are made about a cast member continually forgetting to place a prop in the right place, ruining any chance at the show achieving a sense of verisimilitude for the audience. And Derek Helsing as Ash does his best impression of the iconic character and sells every joke like a used car salesmen in need of one more commission.

It’s a ludicrous production that plays everything for laughs and succeeds because of just how silly the whole thing is. Up and down the cast nails the humor, even if the overall musical talent misses the mark. While Katelyn Kendrick as Ash’s sister Cheryl and Chelsea O’Grady as Annie are two of the standouts when it comes to vocal prowess, and others in the cast do a more than serviceable job, this isn’t the most melodic production.

But who really cares about a melody when there’s the sweet hum of a chainsaw ripping into demon flesh to drown out any missed notes?

For those who are unfamiliar with the source material and don’t understand why shotguns are called boomsticks and everything is “groovy,” this show could be a struggle to understand and enjoy. If you don’t count yourself as a fan of the franchise, there are plenty of other shows out in the metro area that would provide a fun night out at the theater.

But if you’re a fanatic for “Evil Dead” and all of its ridiculousness, this show in all of its bloody glory is tailor made just for you.

Four out of five Boomsticks for fans of “Evil Dead”

Equinox Theater’s “Evil Dead: The Musical” 

At The Bug Theater, 3654 Navajo St. Denver.

Playing now through Feb. 17 7:30 P.M. Fri. and Sat. Tickets: $20 in advance/$25 at the door. Tickets in the splatter zone: $25 advanced only. For more info, visit www.equinoxtheatredenver.com.