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The 'blood-spatter zone' grows

“Evil Dead, the Musical” opened last week at the Randall Theatre, and it is more campy and bloodier than ever.

In fact, the blood-spatter zone is now four rows deep, with seats covered in black plastic and the audience cloaked in hooded ponchos.

“Evil Dead” is a 1981 horror film conceived by Sam Raimi starring Bruce Campbell, who you’ll sometimes see around the Rogue Valley. The film became a cult classic and media merchandise empire that was staged as a musical in 2003. The musical is said to rival “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with its camp following.

Randall Theatre’s production, directed by chief Deadite Jeff Mercer, just might edge out any other competition.

Five college students break into a deserted cabin deep in the woods, which is only the first of their many bad decisions. What follows is a wildly bizarre battle between humans and Kandarian demons, a breach into the other world that becomes a contest for control of human souls and the universe. Get ready for demonic possession, chain saws, animated household objects, lots of sex, bad puns, innuendo and profanity embellished with ’60s-era teen music and dancing. Oh, and did I mention blood?

The queen of zombie apocalyptic contortions and gymnastics is Sophie Marilla Stricker in the role of Cheryl, the first to become one of the Deadites. After a quivering, fearful prelude, Stricker as Cheryl is transformed into a defiant, wildly awkward masked witch who bursts into the scene to curse, vilify and taunt her brother Ash, played by Erik Connolly.

Ash is the hero of the day, just a mild mannered housewares clerk at S-Mart, and as Ash, the noble Connolly gathers courage to cut off his own hand when it tries to strangle his character, and he takes on a chainsaw as a replacement. Connolly’s portrayal of the role explores new frontiers of cheesy, wacky, honorable, horrific comedy.

Debbie Downward as Linda is Ash’s girlfriend — they found love among the toasters at S-Mart. “Evil Dead” is a musical, and Downward’s voice is superb, a level of depth and richness unexpected in this outrageous show.

Not to be forgotten is Eliot Anderson as Scott, complete with a long mullet wig, bare midriff and gym shorts loose enough for his hands. You got it, but enough said, and you’ll have to see for yourself. Anderson’s role is definitely the bad boy of the bunch, and he gets his too before long, when the forest comes alive and pulls out his intestines, which continue to drip as Anderson lurches to his very dramatic death.

As a whole, the ensemble is spectacular. Strobe lights flash red, and blood sprays with every death, and they flash shocking blue or white when time freezes in fearful shock. The cast heaves and wobbles and spins and shakes when the Kandarian demons gather for “Do the Necronomicon,” “We Will Never Die” and others.

The Randall Theatre set design for “Evil Dead, the Musical” is similar to last year — efficient and wide open with lots of space for demonic dancing and deathly antics. There are no obstacles to block the blood sprays, which we are assured will wash off. Get ready for a moose that joins in the fun, picture frames that shake, rattle and roll and a living forest that ever encroaches on the cabin. The theater’s back wall is painted in tall shadowy trees against a gray, fog-like background and is perfect for the show.

There always is something new at the Randall Theatre, and this month the risers are draped with a cream-colored duck cloth. The material doesn’t seem to be tacked down, so it bunches up and clutches at the feet and ankles of the audience, mesmerized by blood spatter and really bad puns. Hopefully, no one will fall down the stairs before the cloth is removed. Or maybe that’s what’s intended to truly frighten the unwary this Halloween season.

Not suitable for sensitive souls, “Evil Dead, the Musical” runs through Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Randall Theatre, 20 S. Fir St., in downtown Medford. For more information and tickets, see RandallTheatre.com or call 541-632-3258.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

“Evil Dead, the Musical” runs through Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Randall Theatre, 20 S. Fir St., in downtown Medford. For more information and tickets, see RandallTheatre.com or call 541-632-3258.