Right up front, I'm going to stick a big fat "Will Recommends" on this. If you haven't seen it yet, go do so; don't read this review, and don't read any publicity materials. In fact no: make sure you have seen at least the first 2 original Evil Dead
Still here? You've hopefully already seen the film then, so this will be less of a review, and more my side of a discussion about why it was clever / great.
One more thing - did you watch the closing credits? All of them? If not; back you go... I'll wait.
First up, the reason my opening paragraph says to avoid publicity material; being the kind of person who reads Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, and so forth, I already knew that the hero of the movie is Mai. This is a crying shame, because well over an hour into this 90 minute move, it looked certain that her brother was 2013's Ash.
Having Mai become the new version of the "Cellar Witch", only to have her recover and be sole survivor was a stroke of genius, playing with our expectations and using our knowledge of horror films (generally) and the previous Evil Dead films (specifically) against us to keep things new.
Indeed, keeping things new is this installment neatest trick; despite the laundry-list of iconic moments being re-worked, it never feels like we've seen this before.
The male-lead's sister is first to be possessed, and is locked in the cellar, A possessed had is chopped of by its (former?) owner with an electric carving knife, male-lead had to bury someone he loves while she pleas with him, there's a tree-rape, the bridge goes down, all the trouble is caused by a creepy-ass book found in the cellar... That it manages to hit all if these points, but make them new is borderline genius!
It's all so similar-yet different that it works as both a reboot and a new story set in the same universe (more on that later).
As we know though, Mai is our "new Ash" and man does she suffer! Ash was famously put through the ringer more than any horror-survivor should be, but his ordeal was a walk in the park next to poor Mia, who has a car-crash, gets possessed, bisects her tongue with a craft-knife, gets scalded, shot in the face with a nail-gun, beaten, burried alive, suffocated, stabbed in the heart with electrified needles, and has to tear (not cut) her hand off! All while undergoing cold-turkey for a drug addiction!
Back to the idea that this film is as much a sequel as a remake; did you notice that the cabin (despite looking like the original and having Ash's car going rusty in the yard) was in a different state? Or that the Necronomicon is a different book - not only in appearance, but it has a new name?
That's because, box office willing, the plan is to have Mai and Ash's stories cross over in the 7th Evil Dead movie (after a sequel to this movie, and then a planned Army of Darkness 2).