Off-Broadway musicals want to be the theater-geek equivalent of midnight movies. But there’s a difference: The post-Urinetown breed of Great Off-White Camp is all crafty calculations and big, safe winks. Evil Dead II, Sam Raimi’s straight-faced 1987 horror burlesque, never cracked a smile — it was fearlessly ridiculous, a bloody, bug-eyed embrace of hilarious genre excess. Not so with Evil Dead: The Musical, now playing (appropriately enough) in a converted movie theater: The show’s excesses are tidily meted out, even when they’re splattered over the first six rows.
The story is an amalgam of the first two Evil Dead movies, with some additions and little Army of Darkness thrown in: Ash (Ryan Ward), an earnest housewares clerk from ”S-mart,” vacations in a rural cabin with his girlfriend (Jennifer Byrne), best bud Scott (Brandon Wardell) and sister (Jenna Coker); Scott has a bimbo in tow (Renee Klapmeyer), the cabin is infested with Candarian demons, and the stage is set for carnage. The money shots arrive with regularity, and the fans (a younger iteration of the Rocky Horror hordes) mouth the signature lines (”Groovy,” ”Gimme some sugar, baby”) like catechism. With a crowd of hyperenthused devotees, the payoffs (the severing of the hand, the attachment of the chainsaw) do pay off. But despite sprays of sanguinary special effects and the pop-up charms of David Gallo’s funhouse set, Evil Dead retains little of its source document’s grisly spontaneity. If you’re not a Deadhead already, you may feel another sort of horror: that of being an outsider, trapped inside an inside joke. (Tickets: Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200)