Everyone likes to think that their family is weird, but there’s always somebody with a story to one-up everybody else in the room. In the case of the family at the centre of Ready or Not, it would take one hell of a story (and strong reason for concern) to top this dysfunctional units unique eccentricities.
It is Grace’s (Samara Weaving) wedding day. She’s more than excited to begin her life with new husband Alex (Mark O’Brien), who is part of the uber-wealthy Le Domas family, who made their fortune in selling games. They have a little tradition that each new family member must take part in a game on the night of their wedding day. All Grace has to do is pull a card from a box and play the game. The card she picks just so happens to be ‘Hide and Seek’. From there, Grace’s best day of her life soon turns into her worst when hide and seek turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse as her new extended family attempt to hunt and kill her before dawn. May the best player win.
That above is one of the most deliciously absurd concepts of the year, and much of the build-up of Ready or Not has a great deal of fun setting the stage for a night of violent mayhem. With just a hint of the supernatural behind the ritual, filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Oplin and Tyler Gillett have a great deal of fun building up to the point where Grace’s night turns into a nightmare. There’s a lot of glee happening behind the camera as red herrings are dangled, the geography of the extravagant house is teased, and characters act in suspicious manners.
Once the game kicks off and her in-laws violent intent becomes apparent, the film continues to ramp up the pitch-black comedy to more ludicrous levels with some splatters of surprising gore that lead to some genuinely hilarious beats. Much of why the first half works is down to the brilliant performance from Weaving. Burning up the screen with star-making charisma, Weaving’s Grace is funny, incredibly capable, and exceedingly cool. I do not doubt that we’ll see a lot of Grace Halloween costumes this year and beyond. The rest of the cast are also exceptionally game, with Adam Brody being a particular stand out as the conflicted brother of the groom.
Where the film falters is in its run into the final act. There becomes a point where you begin to suspect that the tank is running a little bit empty on ideas. Tangents are explored that don’t really go anywhere, decisions are made that largely lead to dead ends and revert back to where you already assume the film is heading. There is a sense come the end that a great concept was formed, and a badass final image was envisioned (and it is a badass final image), but the means of connecting the two weren’t quite as finely tuned as the deliciously dark premise that lights up the opening third.
Ready or Not may not play with convention as successfully as it clearly has a desire to, but for the most part it is a suitably gnarly and surprisingly funny ride that very much knows what tone it is wanting to strike. It is just a shame that it gets a little lost on its way to sticking the knife come the final third. But with an effortlessly cool star-making turn from Weaving, and a wickedly fun tone, this more than makes for an entertainingly gory night of genre thrills that should play very well going into the Halloween season.
Dir: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Scr: Guy Busick & Ryan Murphy
Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell
Prd: Tripp Vinson, James Vanderbilt, Willem Sherak and Bradley J. Fischer
DOP: Brett Jutkiewicz
Music: Brian Tyler
Country: United States
Runtime: 95 minutes
Ready or Not is out in UK cinemas on September 25th.