Ready or Not


Ready or Not
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell
In UK Cinemas September 27th, 2019

by Alex Plant

Every family has a secret. Though it seems unlikely that more than a select few involve satanism, sacrifice and literal deals with the devil. Such is the wont of the Le Domas clan, the Old Money family central to Ready or Not’s barmy and brutal game of cat and mouse. It’s a classic set up: Boy meets Girl – Boy and Girl get married – Boy’s family hunt Girl down on her wedding night lest they all die a terrible death. Y’know, keeping tradition alive and all that.

Caught in the middle of this eldritch occasion are the happy couple; Grace (Weaving) and Alex (O’Brien). Having grown up in foster care, Grace is excited by the prospect of gaining an extended family. Alex meanwhile is the prodigal son, less interested in his boardgame tycoon family’s more unusual traditions and planning on putting some distance between them and his new wife following the wedding. Of course, he, like the rest of his family, were hoping to not be playing Hide and Seek on his wedding night. See, due to an arrangement a distant relative made with the not-at-all-demonic-sounding Mr Le Bail, the newest inductee to the family must draw a card from a mysterious old puzzle box on the night of their marriage. Printed on this card will be the name of a game. It could be something as innocuous as Draughts or Old Maid. However, if the card reads Hide and Seek, the Le Domas’ must find and kill the clueless Grace before dawn. Of course she draws Hide and Seek, because a horror film where rich people play Duck, Duck, Goose and nobody dies probably wouldn’t be very exciting.

It may sound like there’s a lot of set up to get through before the action starts, but there isn’t. Directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin set the pace with a tense opening flashback to thirty years prior, the previous time the deadly game was played. Then, following a brief introduction to the various family members at the present-day wedding ceremony the game is literally afoot and the timer never stops ticking.

Though certainly more thrilling rather than outright scary, Ready or Not definitely feels like a horror film, thanks to the the exquisite gothic backdrop and colour palette. However, one of the great pleasures of this film is how it confronts typical horror tropes. It balances black humour with genuine tension thanks to an ever present schlocky wryness that never borders on smug. Much of the gore is played for laughs and, while one sequence involving a nail is likely to make most audiences wince, things never get too grisly.

Grace is a Final Girl for the ages, with Weaving turning in an electric performance that will surely see her move on to bigger things. The supporting cast all shine too, and one of the main reasons this movie works is because it feels like everyone is in on the joke.

Ready or Not gleefully subverts your expectations, and though it never quite reaches, say, The Cabin in the Woods levels of horror-savvy meta-ness, its 95 minute run time is certainly a fun ride.



 

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