Review: Ready or Not
We’ve been telling stories of people hunting people as long as we have been telling stories, and for good reason, they are exciting and terrifying and just flatout entertaining. The most recent film from Fox Searchlight and Radio Silence Productions (V/H/S, Southbound), Ready or Not, updates that age old story with a clever twist. Taking place entirely in one place the film is a tight ninety-minute fast paced thrill ride boasting an incredible performance from its lead Samara Weaving and a ridiculously fun satirization of the super rich elite.
Grace (Weaving) is finally getting what she’s always wanted, a real family. She's married into the Le Domas Dominion, one of the most wealthy families alive who made their fortune off of recreational games. Her new husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) is the love of her life, but on the night of their marriage at the Le Domas estate, Grace finds herself fighting for her life. In an unprecedented turn of events Grace must play the deadliest game of hide and seek of her life as her new family hunts her down in an attempt to fulfil some twisted family tradition.
The set up is simple and allows the film to move quickly into its main idea: the hunt. As we watch the many members of the Le Domas family stumble around the mansion and attempt to be cold-hearted killers, we learn a ton about them and their history. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet are able to set up an entire lore and history about this family through side conversations and off handed comments. It never feels like the movie is beating you over the head with its lore, forcing you to learn it. Instead, it's slowly giving just as much as you need at the moment, so by the time the finale hits you're able to piece their entire mythology together.
Part of that mythology is the location itself, the Le Domas estate. A massive mansion with endless rooms and secret passages–as well as an endless property line and goat stables–makes for a wonderfully fun location for the hunt. Setting an entire film in a single location is never easy, especially when establishing as much backstory as this does, but they use the property to help establish what this family is doing. It also just looks really damn cool.
Aside from that the film operates as an incredible showcase for actor Samara Weaving (Mayhem), who is no stranger to genre fare. She is on screen for the majority of the movie and gives a legitimately great and honest performance. So often in horror we see these kinds of roles played as over the top and goofy, especially when the movie is as humorous as this one. She never falls into that slapstick nonsense though and instead grounds this entire movie. Her reactions make everything we see believable, despite how ridiculous and unbelievable everything is.
As for the remainder of the cast, Adam Brody is the only other person who really stands out. His turn as the loveable fuck up brother whose allgeiances are unclear makes the movie much more interesting. His contempt for his family is refreshing and always entertaining, you’re never really clear on where he stands until the finale and his proneness to weakness makes him a kind of heartbreaking character. O’Brien is fine as the newlywed Alex, but his arc feels rushed in the end and his character fails to have any real impact. The rest of the family is super fun to watch as all are playing over the top archetypes that make for a ton of laughs.
The film is able to strike a nice balance between laughs and thrills never allowing itself to be completely serious but also never falling entirely into absurd comedy. We laugh as the entire staff of house workers is slowly dispatched in a horrific series of accidents while at the same time feeling for Grace as she unloads on Alex in the servants corridors for bringing her into this murder cult. It's a pairing that allows the film to be endlessly entertaining for ninety-five minutes, it never overstays it welcome and you are out of the theater before you can overthink anything that happens.
Ready or Not is an endless stream of genre fun centering on the absurdity of the rich in modern day America. The Le Domas family is corrupt and out of their minds, they will do anything to keep their status and riches, including killing their son’s new wife. While it tends to focus more on the fun than the satire, the film is constantly hinting at a bigger idea that it's time for the rich to crumble and fall. Generations in, these are not people who've earned it, they are just doing whatever they can to preserve it, and in 2019 that's a message I can get behind. In a summer filled with dull and disappointing movies this is the exact mid-August release we need to re-energize us before the fall season.