In this wittily gory remake of the revered 1981 debut of Oz the Great and Powerful filmmaker Sam Raimi, five college-age friends go to the ol' cabin in the woods where the nerd of the group (Lou Taylor Pucci) commits a common camping mistake: reading aloud from a book of the dead. Cue an invisible demon that uses tree limbs to rape and thereby possess Mia (Jane Levy), who returns to the cabin eager to slice and dice her friends, as well as her brother (Shiloh Fernandez). In a virtuoso feature debut, Uruguayan-born writer-director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues honor the motifs of the original, from the camera rushing pell-mell through the woods to signal the demon's arrival, to the deployment of a chainsaw in the final showdown. But the plotting as a whole feels fresh, as does the emphasis on women strong enough to defend themselves. Alvarez also honors Raimi, who coproduced this remake, in another key way: The film's special effects are created with old-fashioned prosthetics and buckets of blood, which lend a horrifically tactile reality to moments such as when the possessed Mia slices her own tongue in two. Dare ya not to look.
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