DIRECTOR: MATT BETTINELLI-OLPIN, TYLER GILLETT | SCREENPLAY: GUY BUSICK, RYAN MURPHY | STARRING: SAMARA WEAVING, ADAM BRODY, MARK O'BRIEN, HENRY CZERNY, ANDIE MACDOWELL | RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 27TH
Ready or Not is an irreverent cult film in the making (whether it will be recognised as such immediately or retrospectively depends on the marketing ahead of release), powered by a star-making performance from Samara Weaving. Somewhere between a horror, black comedy and thriller lies Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s latest offering of laugh-out-loud hilarity, nail-biting tension and squirm-in-your-seat violence.
Set on their sprawling estate, Ready or Not introduces the Le Domases, a family who made their incredible fortune in the manufacturing of board games. It follows that when Grace (Weaving) marries Alex (O’Brien) despite whisperings that she’s a “gold-digging whore,” she would be summoned to join the family game night, a tradition which will seal her acceptance into the clan. Which game is played depends on what card Grace picks – as luck would have it, she draws the one card that ensures she’ll have no happy ending.
In a game of Hide and Seek, the bride must hide, while the others seek. The Le Domases believe that if the newcomer isn’t found before sunrise, an ancient curse means they will lose both their wealth and their lives – the class commentary isn’t hard to find. As such when she’s found, she will be killed in ritual sacrifice (though Grace, giggling as she hides in a dumbwaiter, doesn’t yet know that). What ensues is an impeccably paced, high-stakes game of cat and mouse.
Weaving is the beating (and bloody) heart of this piece, carrying the story with charm, vulnerability, strength and raging defiance. She’s come to make this film her bitch, and she’s taking no prisoners. The movie fully embraces the clichés of the white woman, sole-survivor heroine trope in a way that brings the viewer in on the joke. We see Grace catch sight of herself in her ripped wedding dress, her yellow converses and an ammo belt slung across her body, and she shakes her head at the absurdity of it all. Ready or Not doesn’t avoid stereotypes; it has a lot of fun with them.
On the other team is an eclectic ensemble of hilariously inept but determined family members, featuring pitch-perfect performances from Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, and Henry Czerny. Far from a nebulous body of bad people, each character has their own misgivings, motivations, perspectives, unique depth. You might even feel for them. What unites them is familial loyalty and the fear that, despite their doubts, the curse might be real.
Ready or Not is dark in a way that’s thrilling as opposed to oppressive, a couple of narrative twists ensure the stakes stay high, it’s as campy as it gets, and every performance is captivating. The directors are flawlessly in sync with their audience and ensure they, in turn, breathe to the film’s rhythms. Go see it.