Ready Or Not (2019)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
If you are down for all of this, Ready or Not is a wild ride.
Steeped in a gothic horror backdrop, with unflinching graphic violence, plenty of gallows humor, some pointed commentary, and a breakout performance from Samara Weaving. Has all the makings of a movie we could be talking about for years.
Not entirely original, but wildly inventive and brilliantly staged, Ready or Not is unlike anything in the multiplex right now.
First and foremost, this is not at all for the squeamish.
Runs the risk of the violence being so over-the-top, that the entertainment value might be lost on some of the viewing audience.
May seem all rather simple and one-note in its setup and execution.
Should blood-drenched, horror comedy hybrid Ready or Not find a right and proper audience, Samara Weaving is going to become a big star. The 27-year-old actor commands the screen in her first leading role as Grace, a newly wedded wife who must play a game of chance with her new in-laws, the Le Domas family.
Having made their wealth through selling board games of various kinds, the family entertains a bizarre but intriguing ritual. Whenever someone marries a Le Domas child, the immediate family assembles the night of the wedding to tell the story of the family legacy, and then pass around a strange and mysterious wooden box. A blank playing card is placed inside, a crank on the side of the box is turned, and a game’s name is magically imprinted on the card.
For Grace, the game is “Hide and Seek.” Simple enough. Except new husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) is visibly shaken when she shows the card. The family seems to swallow hard, and Grace simply is told she needs to stay hidden until dawn. Once she is sent off to go hide in the colossal, gothic Le Domas mansion, home to a bevy of secret corridors and hidden doors, father-in-law Tony (Henry Czerny) begins outfitting himself and his family members with old-fashioned weaponry.
Guns, crossbows, a battle axe - all of it is disbursed, Alex pleading with his family to not go through with things. We learn that Grace is not only hiding from the family on this particular night, but that her new in-laws are assembling to hunt and kill her, based on a ritualistic practice that goes back hundreds of years.
Directed by two members of the filmmaking faction known as Radio Silence, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Ready or Not is a nasty little piece of business. Rife with uncomfortable humor, suspense, and a growing sense of dread and dismay, Grace attempts to survive and turn the hunt around on the family, once she learns from her new husband just what these new in-laws’ intentions happen to be.
As the body count climbs, Grace becomes increasingly resourceful. And Weaving nails her performance, creating a multi-layered character who uses every little nuance of the script to inform her actions. Though fantastical and absurd, we suspend disbelief and root for Grace to outwit and outlast her potential assailants.
Along the way, the kills prove inventive and shocking. The cat-and-mouse game grows more outrageous and the violence more graphic and desperate. Ready or Not is not at all for a weak stomach, but the movie never takes itself all that seriously. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett are down to have fun right along with us.
When Grace finds herself a vehicle to drive, her misfortunes lead to a finicky OnStar-like advisor named Justin hanging up on her. The amazing Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) steals the show with her shock of white hair, garments of purple and black, and outright disdain and vitriol for anyone and everyone she encounters. Puns are frequent, the family’s bumbling nature never bores, and surprises abound.
But it is a fair question to ask: What is the point of all of this? Why do we need a movie about a family trying to hunt and kill a new daughter-in-law, in this time and space, in this political climate?
Thankfully, Ready or Not has more on the agenda than just gory kills and unsettling imagery. Elements of classism, privilege, and entitlement are very much explored and on display, The intoxication of wealth, and the steps one will go to maintain and keep all those luxuries, at any cost, is a front and center narrative playing out while Grace’s entire evening unfolds.
Not everything works. Some minor subplots involving Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody) and his loyalties to his family are explored, the motivations of his wife Charity (Elyse Levesque) are shared, and Alex’s own estrangement and eventual return to the family bogs things down a bit. The moments feel important enough, just rather hollow emotionally and rushed in their execution.
From a technical and design standpoint, Ready or Not is masterfully brought to life. The production design work from Andrew M. Stearn (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) is stellar, as dread drips in and around every room and location throughout the seemingly endless Le Domas estate. A masterful, period-influenced score from Emmy nominee Brian Tyler (“Sleepy Hollow”) is a pitch-perfect accessory to the mayhem unfolding.
But perhaps what I appreciate the most about Ready or Not is the fearlessness of what the directors, and screenwriting team of Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, create here. That fearlessness ultimately earns our trust and investment, allowing satirical commentary, puns, and one-liners sufficient space to co-exist with the ruinous ends some characters eventually encounter.
By the time an explosive final sequence arrives, Ready or Not has already delivered a treasure trove of quotable lines, unforgettable moments, and a star-making turn from Samara Weaving.
From a blood-soaked chuckle, to a sense of warmth and compassion as a beautiful new bride, she steps into the spotlight with a defiant, beating heart, front and center, in one of the more entertaining movies of 2019.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston, Liam MacDonald.
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Written by: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy
Release Date: August 21, 2019
Fox Searchlight Pictures