The plot's pretty basic. Five twenty-somethings unknowingly unleash evil spirits who possess them and gory mayhem ensues. Nobody in the cast distinguishes themselves in the mundane opening scenes. The friends are gathered to guide Mia (Jane Levy) through her detox - adding a more somber tone to the proceedings. In fact, the whole film can be read as an allegory of addiction and the terror of recovery.
Once the demons are unleashed things literally go to hell. I cringed a few times at the creative use of sharp objects and a trusty nail gun - those old cabins always have an exotic knife collections and rusty farm utensils predating the steel plow. Once the spirits are unleashed the film relies solely on shock value. Director Fede Alvarez makes a promising debut with the material at hand (he has facility with the gross out factor) - minus the campy fun of Raimi's b-horror.
The lack of humor isn't necessarily a bad thing. Horror remakes are smart marketing and give young directors a chance to deliver a unique spin on a classic film. Many remakes are improvements on the originals like David Cronenberg's The Fly or Phillip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But those that stay too close the source material are forgettable.
Watching The Evil Dead I kept thinking of the Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods, which took the same premise in a totally different direction. In a word, Cabin in the Woods, for myself, made Evil Dead feel like a retread of cliches. Without the gore, there's little to offer except banality. I suppose that's enough for hardcore horror fans. Stephen King once wrote the "gross-out" marks the lowest common denominator when it comes to shocking audiences. I agree.
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