Film Review – Ready or Not
Ready or Not
Ahh, marriage. It’s a special time in a person’s life when they pledge their love to another through thick and thin, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and when the in laws try to brutally murder them.
Ready or Not (2019) is arguably the best horror comedy of the year. The pitch-black humor cuts through like a knife, where mayhem and viciousness are both played for shock and laughs. This is not an easy balance to maintain, and lesser filmmakers would either lean too far towards the goofy or too far towards the depravity. Luckily, the co-writers (Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy) and co-directors (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett) strike up the perfect tone. This is a blast to watch, especially with a crowd. I can see it playing well to midnight movie audiences.
The premise – in which a woman is brought into a family household only to be caught up in a game of life and death – reminded me a lot of You’re Next (2011). While Ready or Not isn’t quite as good as that film, it manages to explore similar territory, involving a protagonist having to increasingly rely on herself to survive. We’re introduced to Grace (Samara Weaving) on her wedding day. Her husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) is the son of the wealthy Le Domas family, whose riches were achieved through gaming businesses (hunting, tabletop games, sports teams, etc.).
Everything seems to be going smoothly for Grace, even though her blue-collar, adopted upbringing makes her feel like an outcast amongst this white-collar society. It doesn’t help that the looks she receives from the other guests aren’t the most pleasant, with Alex’s Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) casting a particularly menacing glare. Grace tries her best to make the most of the situation, until Alex reveals to her a long running Le Domas tradition. The newest member of the family gets to randomly choose a game that everyone must participate in. As it so happens, Grace selects the classic game of Hide and Seek. But what she thought was an innocent undertaking soon turns south when she realizes that the family is not just looking for her but are looking to her kill her as well.
Why does the family want to kill Grace, and why must they play a game to do it? These are questions that are going to go unanswered in this review. The appeal of Ready or Not is in watching the cast and crew really commit to the ridiculous nature of this story. Seeing the cast play their characters completely straight makes the bloodshed all the funnier. I especially liked how one family member (Kristian Bruun) looks up how to properly use a crossbow for the purpose of using it on Grace, or how the matron of the family (Andie MacDowell) gives Grace advice even when trying to shoot an arrow through her chest. Adam Brody delivers one of his better performances as Alex’s drunk and depressed brother. Brody manages to use a wiseass approach mixed with legitimate dramatic weight that makes his character one of the more fascinating people to follow. It’s the contrast between a normal looking world and the insanity that lies beneath that really draws us in.
But this isn’t just a bloodbath – despite there being tons of it. The writing and directing makes an effort to comment on class, and how those with wealth are often the ones with the biggest problems. It seems as though the rich can get away with murder (literally and figuratively) while ignoring the plights of the middle to lower class. Perhaps that’s why Grace works so well as the counterpoint to this crazy group. Samara Weaving gives a strong performance, giving Grace the resilience to push forward. While much of what happens with Grace turns out to be coincidental or just plain dumb luck, that doesn’t take away from her digging deep and finding the tenacity to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Weaving is also great at delivering a key one-liner, punctuating a horrific sequence with a well-timed laugh.
The film isn’t perfect – there are moments that stretch believability. In a mansion with multiple rooms and hidden passageways, characters seem to run back and forth through the same hallway multiple times. The narrative comes up with some wacky ways to keep Grace within the family’s crosshairs. A scene involving a smart car played out extremely awkward and clunky. Worst of all was how Alex’s character developed from the beginning to end. I was not convinced by where he ended up and the choices he makes – it came off as contrived and unearned. We come away from Alex thinking of him merely as a plot device rather than a fully dynamic character.
But all these issues are easily ignored once Ready or Not comes to its “explosive” conclusion. You have to give the production credit – they swung for the fences with that ending and by golly, it just may have worked. There are few who would have chosen to go that route, but I’m glad they did so here. It goes to show how much the filmmakers embraced their over the top style and weren’t willing to back down from it. I’m sure anyone who goes to see this will react with some emotional response, whether it be shock, disbelief, anger, laughter, etc. The point is that it’ll make you react, and that’s precisely what makes it a success.