Review: Ready or Not

DIR: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett • WRI: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy • DOP: Brett Jutkiewicz • ED: Terel Gibson • DES: Andrew M. Stearn • PRO: Bradley J. Fischer, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt, Chad Villella, Tripp Vinson • MUS: Brian Tyler • CAST: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien

Weddings are supposed to be the happiest day of your life. The day when you get to become one with your life partner. Surrounded by your friends and family you make a promise to love and protect one another until the day you die. Words can’t comprehend how beautiful of a moment it is. There’s only one problem. Weddings don’t end with the newlyweds riding into the sunset. This is a wedding day after all. What occurs after the ceremony is the stuff of nightmares. People who have never spoken in their life are sitting beside each other while eating a meal which they have limited say in. The in-laws each want their family to be in the limelight. The groom must pray that his best man doesn’t deliver a speech that sends the couple on a honeymoon to the divorce office.  Your weird uncle Jim is busting moves that belong on no dancefloor in the world. Your wedding day no matter how much planning you do will feel like a wedding lifetime.

Ready or Not tells the story of wedding day unlike any other. Yes, all the awkwardness above still takes place. Yet, this wedding ends on a note that no wedding has ever ended on. A game of hide and seek where if you lose, you die. 

Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex (Mark O’Brien) tie the knot in the garden of the groom’s family estate. The Le Domas family, who built quite the fortune in the boardgame business, don’t feel that a “lower-class” woman belongs in the family. Grace is similar in every way to the Le Domas family. Grace is funny, like best man/brother-in-law Daniel (Adam). She’s sympathetic, like her mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell). She’s determined, like her father-in-law tony. She’s impulsive, to a much lesser degree than her new sister-in-law Emily.

The one thing that separates Grace from the Le Domas family is wealth. If she had an endless amount of money she would be as irrational as them. After all, the Le Domas family are so irrational they stick to their strict tradition of having whoever is entering the family play a game with them on their wedding night. When Grace draws the hide and seek card it quickly becomes clear that she would have been safer with a game of Monopoly. What follows is the blood thirstiest round of hide and seek you’ll ever witness. 

Every second of the game is glorious. This is a film that blends the horror elements of You’re Next with the comedy of Shaun of the Dead. Two films which belong in any horror fans top ten list. Ready or Not is destined to become a cult classic. Samara Weaving leads the screen with a performance that her uncle Hugo would be proud of. Weaving is charming, funny and electric in every scene that she’s in. Following up her scene-stealing performance in Three Billboards… and her ’80s feel performance in The Babysitter with acting that cements her as a star. Horror has been lacking in female stars for most of the decade. Samara Weaving joins Happy Death Day’s Jessica Roth in showing film fans that comedy-horror can be as thrilling as regular horror. The image of Weaving in her blood-drenched wedding dress is instantly iconic. In a way Grace is to wedding nights what Carrie is to Prom nights. 

Often in cat-and-mouse horror films, the villains are one-dimensional killing machines. Ready or Not excells thanks to its vibrant supporting cast. Every single member of the Le Domas family is ridiculous. Adam Brody as Daniel spends the entire film without a filter. Watching Brody call out his family members for the garbage they are is delightful; he’s the only member of the family who knows how awful they are.

Henry Czerny has a blast as a father who is in over his head. No spoilers to what the family’s motives are but it’s amazing to see how Czerny tries to justify their murderous behaviour. Melanie Scrofano is outstanding as the drug-fuelled Emilie. Scrofano’s character is the most unbelievably ludicrous, yet she makes it work by committing to her character’s wild range of emotions. In the space of ten seconds she can go from hysterical laughter to hysterical sobbing. Emilie’s husband Fitch, played by Kristian Bruun, deserves a mention for being a comic relief who never grows infuriating.

The star of the Le Domas family is the mother played by Andie MacDowell. MacDowell has struggled to land memorable roles following her insanely successful nineties. In Ready or Not she reminds the world how talented she is. MacDowell manipulating everyone around her would feel fake if the actress didn’t commit to the role. The Le Domas family is horror’s version of the Bluth family. They even have their own Lucille Bluth in the form of Aunt Helene played by Nicky Guadagni with just the right amount of bitterness. 

When looking at the previous work from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, it’s a miracle that Ready or Not is as good as it is. The directing duo’s previously worked on segments from the underwhelming anthologies V/H/S and Southbound. The only feature they had made in full before Ready or Not was the atrocious Devil’s Due. Yet, with Ready or Not the duo commit to making the most of their brilliant premise. While no one is going to come out of this film thinking about the direction, Olpin and Gillett deserve praise for making a film that they can both be proud of.

The film was written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy. Murphy is known for making content that is in your face. From Glee to American Horror Story, everything that Murphy has created has never been afraid to be exactly how he imagined. Ready or Not is at the higher end of insane ideas that Murphy has had, yet it never goes off the rails. Busick may have been there to stop Murphy from going too crazy with his ideas. While always out there, Ready or Not doesn’t jump the shark. Keep in mind that Ryan Murphy is the man who managed to put aliens, the pope and an evil therapist into a single episode of American Horror Story

Ready or Not puts the fun back into horror. Midsommar, The Witch and A Ghost Story have all recently terrorised audiences by taking them on a mental trip. It’s wonderful to see an ’80s-esque horror back on our screens. A key element of horror is to entertain your audience as much as you try to scare them. You’ll struggle to find a film as entertaining as Ready or Not this year. From Samara Weaving’s star-making performance to the brilliant final 10 minutes, this is pure insanity. You just need to ask yourself. Are you ready or not? 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

95′ 14″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Ready or Not is released 27th September 2019

Ready or Not – Official Website

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