Sam Raimi's 1981 film, The Evil Dead, is probably the B-movie horror film of B-movie horror films for the current generation of film lovers. If memory serves, the first film in the series was a straight-up campy, horror film. The second was a partial remake of the first on a somewhat bigger budget, but with more slapstick humor and gags. The third film, arguably as reverred and famous as the first, was a wacky horror-fantasy send-up. I haven't admittedly read much on on Raimi's rememberance and opinions on the first, but I'm sure even he could agree- that film and its sequels were not meant to be thought provoking (that is more in the realm of The Exorcist or even The Cabin in the Woods), but instead the franchise wanted to deliver a fun time with Bruce Campbell making us laugh with a one-liner or cheer with a bloody beatdown.
I had the chance to see an unrrated trailer/sizzle-reel at New York Comic-Con in October where Bruce Campbell lamented that he and Raimi had longed to remake and reimagine the first film with a modern sensibility and bigger budget. They chose short-film director Fede Alvarez, who commented to the crowd (paraphrasing here), "when Sam Raimi calls and asks if you want to remake The Evil Dead, you don't say [in a nasely voice] 'no, I'm not a fan of remakes', because as an up-and-coming director you thank the opportunity and then you go and make the best damn remake you can." I for one, think he suceeded.
The screenplay, written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues and doctored by Diablo Cody, does have some substance to it. The characters have enough distinguishing characteristics to be developed and move along with the story. That being said, this movie (like Raimi's original series) understands what kind of film 'it' is. This is a widely-released horror movie about five twenty-somethings going to an abandoned satanic cabin to be met with bloody downfalls. At a certain point, the characters are interchangable, but the filmmakers understand this and hope to scare, rattle, and concern you with numerous techniques associated with the horror genre- squirting blood, gruesome make-up, sometimes-practical/sometimes-computer generated visual effects, careful editing and sound design, etc. Raimi has been a fantastic visual storyteller whether he was making Spider-Man or A Simple Plan, and here, Alvarez channels his predecessor's energy. There are crazy and unexpected camera angles and shots. The gore is plenty. The nods to the original are not tongue-in-cheek, but are instead serving the horrificly fun experience of this film.
This movie is certainly sadistic, but not like Hostel or Saw. Those were films/franchises that just wanted to deliver shock and awe for our nightmares. Evil Dead, like its original, just wants to be fun and for us to have a fun (bloody) time.