Review: Ready or Not Is a Sharp, Fun Horror Film
Four out of five ripped-up wedding dresses.
In-laws can be hellish to deal with. That’s what Grace (Samara Weaving in a star-making turn) comes to learn in Ready or Not, a horror comedy that’s ready to tackle marriage and wealth in the sharpest of ways. Brimming with blood and body horror, with a sharp wit to match, Ready or Not is a delight of a movie that lingers with you long after the credits have ended.
Grace has just married into the Le Domas family. Her husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) seems normal, but his relatives, from warm mother Becky (Andie MacDowell) to the bizarre Aunt Helen (a scene-stealing Nicky Guadagni) are all a bit odd. The Le Domas family made their money off of board games, and their tradition is that at midnight, Grace will draw an unknown card from a box to play a game to be welcomed into the family. Grace draws Hide and Seek, which turns into a vicious race for her life as the Le Domas family then starts pursuing her with the intent to kill.
What inspires the Le Domas family is a smart twist, which I’ll save for when you see the movie. Needless to say, it is a sharp commentary on how wealth can corrupt one’s very soul, and the lengths people are willing to go to keep power and money in the family. The family is a zany bunch of folks, with especially great turns from MacDowell, Guadagni, and Wynonna Earp‘s Melanie Scrofano. Each family member feels like an actual character, rather than just a wild archetype, which makes them all the more engaging to watch, even if we’re rooting for them to fail.
But the real star of the film is Weaving’s Grace, who gives a hell of a turn as a Final Girl. With shades of Sydney Prescott, Grace fights for her life with increasingly vicious moves, tearing apart her wedding dress to bind wounds or defend herself. Through it all Weaving keeps us rooting for her, and her righteous anger is palpable. Weaving is a powerhouse, dominating every moment she’s on screen with screams of fury and a desperation that’s impossible to look away from. Weaving is the new Scream Queen and I’m here for it.
The film’s humor also is a sharp reminder of how well horror and comedy go hand in hand. Both are all about the timing, and this movie nails both comedic timing and jump scares and tension perfectly. Comedic horror is a tricky act, as you don’t want to sacrifice tension for a joke or have your jokes not land due to the screams, but directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and screenwriters Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy balance it all.
It’s hard to talk about the brilliance of the film without delving into spoilers. The commentary never gets heavy handed, which puts it a step above mega franchise The Purge. It’s also a good reminder of the joy of the small, independent film. There’s no big studio franchise plans set around Ready or Not, but rather just an excellent horror film that audiences have been responding positively to. If anything, let Ready or Not serve as a reminder that audiences still like original stories and that the independent film shouldn’t die as monopolies take over.
(image: Fox Searchlight)
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