READY OR NOT is a good really time at the movies. No, it’s not revelatory or particularly groundbreaking or the next big thing, it’s just good and a whole lot of fun.
As tradition dictates, any new member of the wealthy La Domas boardgaming dynasty must play a game. Grace (Samara Weaving) chooses poorly and ends up playing the deadliest game of hide and seek around the family mansion, her in-laws armed to the teeth and in hot pursuit.
Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett really want you to know that they know their way around the horror genre. From an impressive opening tracking shot through the film’s primary location of a classic Gothic mansion, establishing the geography and atmosphere of the wider story from the off, to confident pacing and knowing manipulation of horror tropes throughout, they pull it off. There’s also some real acidic wit to the script from Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy here, usually in mocking lines delivered by the quite terrifying Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni): “Brown-haired niece, you continue to exist” or more veiled-menacing threats by mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell, great to see you again!).
While it is genuinely terrifying when the La Domas clan tool up and give chase, not all killer family members are made equal. One is off her proverbials on “prescription” pills and is equally likely to off unlucky maids and fellow hunters with an itchy trigger finger, another unlucky enough to given a crossbow in the ancient weapon lottery takes a tactical break in the bathroom to YouTube how to use it.
I much preferred the devious setup of Ready or Not, where you have absolutely no idea what direction or tangent it will take to the all-out splatterhouse it becomes. As silly as it sounds when talking about a slasher movie I didn’t like it as much when all subtlety went out of the window.
Speaking of all-out splatterhouse, I would put money on this receiving higher certification was not to do with the amount of gore throughout but the manner in which characters die – not easily. It’s not always seeing every detail but hearing someone horribly gurgling through blood and gasping for life that stays with you.
Samara Weaving is a find, imbuing an otherwise quite formidable Grace with endearing physical tics, like catching herself still doing the exaggerated sneak mime she was doing messing around with her boyfriend (Mark O’Brien) a few scenes later when her life is in real jeopardy and snort-laughing at the most and extreme unexpected turn of events.
Also it’s amazing in horror quite how many heroines only stop running and fight back once they become that tired trope of the final girl. In Ready or Not and something like REVENGE last year, our protagonists start off fighting for their lives and never stop, and have a will and adaptability to survive using any means or nearby household objects necessary.
I loved how Grace’s wedding dress is designed by Avery Plewes in such a way to gradually transform into a battered suit of armour as she endures her war against the family. The bodice turns into a breastplate, the brocade to tattered chainmail and the bride to a warrior fighting for her very survival on the most unlikely of battlefields. If you ever feel like your first meet with your in-laws is going badly, take solace that no-one’s opened up the weapons cabinet.
Ready or Not won’t change your life but your watch time will fly by, and very enjoyably so. If I liked rollercoasters, I’d compare this to one – it’s a thrill-ride with mischief, style and striking performances to spare. SSP