Ready or Not Review
2019 was a good time for deadly serious, prestigious horror movies determined to tackle lofty themes with an auteur flair. From Jordan Peele's depiction of class tensions in Us to Ari Aster's exploration of ritualistic nihilism in Midsommar, original, intellectual horror was at the forefront of the conversation, and Oscars snubs seemed more egregious than ever. Ready or Not is absolutely not one of these movies. Instead, it continues the grand (and equally valuable) tradition of an isolated young woman taking on forces beyond our comprehension against the odds, spilling a lot of blood while doing so. Closer in tone to Happy Death Day than Hereditary, this silly dark comedy is a genuinely funny film, and while it struggles to leave a lasting impression, I had fun going along for the ride.
Grace (Samara Weaving), a normal, down to earth young woman, has just gotten married to the love of her life. The only downside is his family - exceedingly wealthy, but strange and cold - the Le Domas clan are hiding a secret; the hunting down of those who marry in. After supposedly striking a deal with the devil many generations ago in exchange for their wealth and reputation, any new family member must play a game to earn their place - unfortunately, one of the options is more violent than a game of Monopoly with your siblings at Christmas. The result is a cat and mouse chase between the family and Grace where she must do anything it takes to survive until sunrise, turning her would-be wedding night into a complete bloodbath.
Any kind of genre blend is risky - if you aren't great at both, you may as well have not bothered. Luckily, Ready or Not is both tense and hilarious, largely because of its witty, well-structured script. The quick pace keeps Grace's attempted escape tense with power dynamics constantly shifting, and the question of whether supernatural forces are really at play keeps conversations between conflicting family members fresh and intriguing. Much like the widely beloved You're Next, each member of the Le Domas family has their own well-defined character. My personal favourite is the hilariously incompetent and spoiled Emilie, played with childish indignance by Melanie Scrofano who inadvertently causes some of the early deaths and is distressed not because she has committed murder, but because she isn't good enough at it.
This is also a movie that uses its budget for maximum potential, seemingly pouring most of it into the meticulous production design. The Le Domas mansion is gloriously excessive, and its extensive grounds essentially become an obstacle course for Grace as she makes her way to the outside. This extends to the costumes; while the costumes of the family perfectly convey their personalities and connection to the outside world, Grace's deteriorating wedding gown is the star of the show, with each iteration representing how far she's come, and how far she has left to go.
If nothing else, Ready or Not exists as a perfect star vehicle for newcomer scream queen Samara Weaving, following her stellar turn in the otherwise iffy The Babysitter. She's believable enough as the vulnerable victim of the family but can clearly hold her own, and her likeability and charisma keep you watching when many scenes feature Grace, and Grace alone. I sincerely hope that this will springboard her into further stardom in films with a little more to go at - in the meantime, these funny, edgy examples of modern horror cinema are entertaining enough.
Fans of the movie won't be disappointed by the extras on the DVD, particularly the behind the scenes documentary Let the Games Begin, a 40-minute look into the making of the film. While the pickings are somewhat slim beyond this - the usual standbys of a trailer and gallery are present - some may be interested in the audio commentary from Radio Silence and Samara Weaving. As stated before, the latter may be one of the most promising up and coming comedic actresses, so listening to her quip on the movie definitely holds appeal.
If you're a fan of horror movies that don't take themselves too seriously, and you want something to watch with friends over pizza, I'd highly recommend picking up Ready or Not. It's no Get Out, and I doubt you'll be thinking about it the next day, but it is an enjoyable, tight movie that tells an original story in a smart, compelling way. I'm all for large studios making more interesting mid-budget horror that doesn't pull punches on gore, and if the moderate success of Ready or Not paves the way for more, better movies like it, then it's certainly served its purpose.