Oct. 24--DECATUR -- When a group of young people trek out to a deserted cabin in the woods, that's the sort of stuff horror movies are made of. "The Evil Dead," Sam Raimi's touchstone 1981 indie horror flick, practically established that particular cliche, spinning off two very similar films full of graphic violence, gore and shock value.
But songs? That's a feature completely absent from the "Evil Dead" films -- but not from "Evil Dead: The Musical," which premiers tonight at Millikin University's Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre.
"It's a parody of 'The Evil Dead,' so it mostly comes off as comedy," said director Grace Barnett. "They stay pretty close to the films, but they kind of blend the first two together. It's ridiculous; you should just get ready for the unbelievable to happen."
That makes this production a horror-comedy-musical, something rarely seen outside the likes of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" or "Little Shop of Horrors." One thing unchanged from the film are the unspeakable horrors that the hero, Ash, must endure. Barnett said it was Ash's will to keep going that makes him a compelling character, even after he's soaked in blood by the show's midpoint.
"A lot of these props, like the chainsaw Ash has, have squirt bottles of blood attached to spray it," she said. "It gets really quite messy by the end of the show. There will be a small splash zone to sit in, if you are willing to get messy yourself."
The music, meanwhile, is mostly rock-opera in nature, crammed in somehow between scenes of death and dismemberment.
"They really pull from a lot of genres, but it's mostly pop-rock," Barnett said. "But there is also a little doo-wop and even a few ballads between Ash and his girl, Linda."
Travis Neese plays the pivotal role of Ash, a pop-culture icon known for his exaggerated, comic reactions and cheesy one-liners. The character undergoes a large transformation, beginning as a meek boyfriend before acknowledging that survival will push him to do things he earlier thought impossible.
"I watched all the movies in a marathon recently," Neese said. "A lot of the show's dialog is similar. Ash changes a lot. By the end act one, he's become this completely different, battle-hardened person."
Neese particularly enjoys the humor of the show, portraying a character who is something of a satire on the traditionally wisecracking American movie hero.
"It's got some of the cheesiness and crassness that the films had," he said. "It's definitely a parody but we've tried to find a little bit of realness in it too to make it a little bit more creepy than in some other stagings."
And of course, Neese couldn't help but mention all the blood. It is, after all, the facet of "Evil Dead" that audiences are likely to take away with them. Or take away on them.
"Tech has been really interesting because there is so much combat and bloodwork," he said. "We've been using water in rehearsals to not use up all our stage blood. It's been a total blast and I can't wait to see the final product. If you're planning on sitting in the first few rows, I wouldn't plan on wearing anything too fancy."
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