Movie Review: ‘Ready or Not’

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni

Plot: Grace and Alex are getting married, although some of Alex’s wealthy family are stand-offish with the new bride. Later that night Grace is invited to partake in a traditional family game of Hide and Seek, a tradition with sinister intentions.

Review: Right off the bat this movie is doing all the right things. We open with Grace (Weaving) and Alex (O’Brien) preparing for their wedding ceremony on the grounds of the family mansion. The Le Domas family has earned a vast fortune producing board games, and some are wary that Grace is marrying Alex for his money. The relationship between the betrothed feels genuine, the performers really sell the idea that they are two people in sync and looking forward to a future together. Samara Weaving is a fantastic rising star who mostly carries this film on her shoulders.

Throughout the ceremony Grace is uneasy with the intense scrutiny some members of the Le Domas clan are putting her under, especially the hilariously grim looking Aunt Helene (Guadagni). Eventually she learns of the family tradition of playing a randomly selected game at midnight as an ‘induction’ into the family. Expecting something simple like chess or backgammon, Grace plays along, but when Hide and Seek is selected she finds herself in an unexpectedly dire situation. Her new in-laws are armed and hunting her through the estate in order to sacrifice her to what they believe is a supernatural entity who grants them their fortune.

The game of cat and mouse that follows is equal parts horrifying and hilarious, a balance that makes this film a must-see for horror fans. The modern family are awkwardly welding generations old weapons, but are driven by the firm belief that painful death with befall them if they don’t complete this task. Accidents and squabbling between extended family members give the audience plenty of hearty laughs, but when Grace is in danger we get some moments of real suspense and painful looking injuries. It’s easy to root for the quick-witted Grace as she rises to the occasion and fights for her life. Ready or Not is comparable to the excellent You’re Next, complete with the determined-to-survive female lead and difficult family members.

What is unexpected – and not in a good way – is the pacing of the death scenes. For the majority of the movie the only characters being bumped off are red-shirt maids who barely get named, let along character. It’s all in service of having an ensemble present for the third act, and it’s a shame we didn’t get suspenseful encounters with family members dotted throughout. It’s also a predictable film, with all twists and reveals rolling out when expected. On the whole it’s a well crafted film, but it doesn’t do anything unique.

Having said that, the audience was absolutely cracking up through the finale. The story is simple and is rolls out as expected, but it’s suspenseful and shocking at the right times and the dark comedy lands consistently. As mentioned before, Nicky Guadagni makes us laugh every time she appears, rocking an Ursula the Sea-Witch aesthetic and sporting one of the best stink-eyes of all time. Kristian Bruun is also a stand-out as an oafish and whiny brother-in-law. It does feel like all the actors involved were having a great time making this movie.

As a horror fan, this was a real treat. We don’t know why we had to wait an extra two months to get this film in Australia but we’re sure glad we got it. It’s certainly not redefining the genre but it’s a stand-out of the modern era. When it hits home media we’ll be settling into a double-feature with You’re Next – so if you liked that movie, you’ll like this.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN