A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game. (IMDb)
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writers: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy
Stars: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell
In my recent review of the pacy and tense survival thriller Crawl, I highlighted the importance of keeping things simple. Certain films can benefit from drawn out complexity, but many could do with being shorter, tighter, and more simple in their approach to storytelling. Fox Searchlight’s new slasher horror Ready or Not is a film that just gets it. It’s efficient and concise when it comes to delivering information about its key characters, it doesn’t take too long to get the story started, and it packs loads of thrills, action, dark humour, character beats and effective satire into its compact 95-minute running time. It has a terrific cast, a killer premise, and more than enough thematic material for the audience to get stuck into about class, privilege, family, tradition and marriage. It’s an entertaining and suspenseful film that’s well worth the price of admission.
“Ready or not, here I come!”
If you don’t already know the premise and haven’t seen any of the trailers, the film is driven by a straightforward plot that’s full of potential for both moments of emotion and horror. It’s all about newlywed Grace (Samara Weaving), who has just married into the outrageously rich Le Domas family, who all appear to value outdated and bizarre traditions. On her wedding night, her new husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) tells her about an initiation ritual in which she’ll have to draw a card from a mysterious wooden box and play whichever game she chooses. When she picks “hide and seek”, she plays along and hides, believing it to be just a bit of fun. Meanwhile, the creepy family members gather up old-fashioned weapons — including guns, crossbows and axes — and begin to hunt her down, aiming to kill her before sunrise in order to complete their ritual. Grace, thankfully, works out what’s happening soon enough and tries to stay alive. The story becomes all about her desperate struggle to survive the night, escape the Le Domas estate, evade her murderous in-laws, and work out why they’re trying to kill her.
“Hide & Seek? Are we really going to play that?”
Without Samara Weaving’s excellent performance anchoring it, Ready or Not wouldn’t work half as well as it does. She’s a charismatic and charming lead, but Grace is also in way over her head and her reactions to her increasingly desperate and perilous situation feel real and relatable. You’ve probably seen the film advertised with her brandishing a gun and ready to fight back against those hunting her, but this isn’t You’re Next and she’s much more of an ordinary person stuck in a completely extraordinary situation. We definitely feel her exasperation and panic as things get worse for her, and the film keeps you rooting for her all the way through. The other performances are impressive, and the actors playing the ultra-rich Le Domas family make them perfectly smarmy, obnoxious and easy to hate. They’re clear villains through and through, but they’re not without their complexities and this is particularly true for Mark O’Brien’s Alex and Adam Brody’s Daniel (his brother).
“Our family is big on tradition, rituals, and games.”
The writers have described the character of Alex as the “epitome of privilege”, and this is something that becomes increasingly clear throughout. He’s someone who feels some shame about his family’s traditions but has profited from them and made no effort to warn his wife of the risk she faces by marrying him. It makes him an interesting figure throughout, and audiences will find themselves unable to easily understand why he’s done what he has. Ready or Not is made to be an exciting thriller with gore and shocks, but it’s also a satire of wealth and the lengths that rich people will go to in order to hold onto what they have. It’s a film about class, and is not only concerned with how many terrible things people will do to attain money but the moral compromises they make so they don’t lose it. This is a movie that is upfront about its politics, and its writers have mentioned the Trump family as a clear inspiration for the story. It’s an unsubtle look at the the wealthy preying on those who aren’t as rich as they are, and not thinking twice about it.
Funny, dark and thrilling, this slasher is a crowd-pleaser that horror fans will love. It’s a tense, gory, well-paced and consistently entertaining movie.