MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Comedy Horror/Stars: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni, John Ralston, Liam McDonald, Ethan Tavares, Hanneke Talbot, Celine Tsai, Daniela Barbosa, Andrew Anthony, Guy Busick, R. Christopher Murphy, James Vanderbilt; Voice of: Nat Faxon/ Runtime: 95 minutes
I think it’s safe to say that if there was a list made of the most nerve-wracking times in a person’s life I can definitely say that getting married is one of the times that would be near the top of the list (birth of a child incidentally turned out to be the number 1 answer Family Feud fans). Jokes aside, I can definitely see why that would be the case. I mean not only are you standing up in front of all your closest family, friends, and other people you want a nice gift from for seemingly all of eternity, but it really does make for quite the anxiety-inducing situation not just during the actual ceremony, but also when you have your first dance as a couple where it’s less about romance and more about hoping and praying you don’t trip, and especially when you receive the call from your parents a few days after you get home from the honeymoon where they proceed to tell you just how much they paid for your lovely blushing significant other’s extra special day. Of course for all the anxieties I just mentioned nowhere on that list is an item that can best be described as “your new in-laws immediately trying to kill you”. Yet that is exactly the core narrative hook of the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2019’s Ready or Not, and honestly I really dig the heck out of this movie. Indeed here is a slice and dice of cinema that takes the time-honored concept of “despicable in-laws” to some truly frightening and genuinely unique yet also darkly and perversely hilarious places. Yet when you also factor in a terrific gallows sense of humor that balances out the viscerality of all that goes on beautifully, wonderful work behind the camera by professionals whose love for this genre is apparent in every way, and a collection of just plain fun and lively by a talented group of thespians in front of the camera with a genuine star-making performance by Samara Weaving in the lead, Ready or Not is more than just a genuinely great time. Rather it is also a brilliant piece of evidence that you can show your future spouse that in certain instances eloping really might not be as bad as everyone makes it out to be……
The plot is as follows: Ready or Not gets underway at a point that is usually the end of one road and the beginning of another. That being, this film starts out as we see the final hours before our main heroine, a young woman, named Grace is set to marry her sweetheart Alex at his family’s luxurious manor estate. Oh yes I guess I should mention: Alex, we rather quickly learn, is the proverbial “golden boy” in a family that happens to be behind an extremely successful gaming (board games, card games, and the like) empire. They also, we too quickly are able to pick up on, are for the most part quite venomous to both our heroine and especially to each other to say nothing of the fact that their family portrait is perhaps the picture example you might find in the dictionary under the definition for the word “snobbish”. Yet even with that hanging over our heroine’s head, we see that the ceremony still manages to go off without a hitch. Instead, the hitch it seems had to go on a quick bathroom run and, having missed the ceremony, decides to make its presence known afterwards in the form of our heroine being told that there is one last thing she must take part in so she can finally and officially become part of the family. That being at midnight she has to gather with the rest of the family and play a game. Seems simple enough right? Well not exactly. Suffice it to say that by the time the movie is done a game will indeed be played. One that will test our heroine in ways she probably didn’t imagine she would be tested on her wedding night of all nights and place her feet first in a battle for no more and no less than her survival….
Now at a primary glance, I can definitely see how the plot for this film might seem like yet another distinct take on the story “The Most Dangerous Game,” where a wealthy guy decides that the best thing to hunt would be other people. Thankfully however, I can safely say that Ready or Not is able to distinguish itself from that property courtesy of some ghastly novel additions to the mix. Perhaps the key one of these is in the form of the fact that the reason the Le Domas clan is trying to hunt our heroine down isn’t because they want to or because they think she only married the prodigal son so she could be set for life (although some do think that). Instead, there is a more unique reason at play that manages to be a brilliant mix of paranoia, fear, and belief in something otherworldly that for the majority of the film lies just under the surface broiling until finally coming to a head at the end in a way that will leave horror fans absolutely delighted in the best way possible. Even with that in mind however, we see that the dynamic helming duo behind this film do a wonderful and masterclass job of not only toying with what you know will eventually happen, but also what you would like to see happen as well. Indeed these are the kind of directors who could show you a glimpse of a nail sticking out and then keeping you hanging on the edge of your seat to see how it will eventually and viscerally play out in the grand scheme of things. Indeed the thrill of this movie therefore is not just in what does happen, but in waiting to see what does transpire. In that regard, this film’s helmers do a wonderful job of toying with us and the film is all the better for it. On top of all that, we see that this slice of cinema’s script is one that is wonderfully full to the brim with a surprising yet very much welcome sense of humor. Of course by humor I don’t mean a sense of humor that is light hearted by any means. Instead, I mean a sense of humor that is more of the gallows and/or cynical variety especially when it comes to such things as the family insulting or belittling the heck out of each other constantly throughout the film, certain family members slowly but surely losing their grip as the film goes on with particular regard to family patriarch Tony who just starts hurling f bombs seemingly every other sentence, or in one distinct instant where Grace is in a state of shock about this whole ordeal her new husband, who this is clearly not surprising too by any stretch, just pushes aside the blame being (rightfully) placed on him by saying “Well you were the one who wanted us to get married”. Suffice it to say that this slice of cinema does a wonderful job of incorporating this gallows humor beautifully alongside the bloody violence that befalls the prey and her pack of hunters as well as the house staff who seem to be an equal mix of confused or very much aware of what is going yet all of whom look they just came off the set of the music video for “Addicted to Love”. Finally, we also see that in the middle of all the visceral brutality and gallows humor, this film actually has something fairly insightful albeit horror-cinema tinged to say about how becoming or being wealthy can really make a mark on the soul of a person especially when it is presented to us courtesy of the most dysfunctional family dynamic since Married with Children (in all fairness Al Bundy may have given people a sick burn a time or two, but never once did he do it with actual lighter fluid and actual matches) . Suffice it to say that you could make the choice to view this slice and dice of cinema as “just another horror film”, but trust me when I say that doing so would significantly take away from all that this film is attempting to offer your way.
Now I can safely say that the twisted odyssey that this film asks us all to embark on would not function nearly as well if the main character did not prove to be relatable to say nothing of someone the audience could both identify with to say nothing of cheer on from beginning to end. With that in mind, I can honestly say that as our main heroine Grace, Samara Weaving proves to be a terrific if highly reluctant guide through this night of initial wedded bliss followed by being relentlessly hunted by the most dysfunctional family unit since the Lannisters on Game of Thrones whilst also being able to transition with phenomenal ease from a snarky sense of humor to genuine horror and other emotions. Suffice it to say that is a genuine career-starting performance in every sense of the word and I really do hope she gets to be as known to the land of movie magic as her uncle is (a certain guy who played a certain character named Smith in a certain film franchise known as The Matrix). As for the rest of the cast we spend a significant amount of time with they are, for the most part, all playing either various members of this seriously demented clan or their housekeeping staff and in that regard each and every one of them are all uniformly excellent to say nothing of seemingly tailor made for their respective parts in the finest way possible. Indeed I have always appreciated Andie MacDowell’s work as an actress so to see her in a role like the one she plays in this was a true delight since it really does permit MacDowell to hit certain beats that she’s played before whilst also permitting her to really cut loose with a character and just have fun for once playing a decent woman who also happens to be a little bit of a psychopath. The same can also be said for Henry Czerny who I thought was a slimy good antagonist in such films as Clear and Present Danger as well as the first Mission: Impossible from ’96. A fact that, despite not being in a mainstream slice of cinema in quite a while (or so it seemed), was definitely the case here as the character of Tony is one that fits perfectly in Czerny’s wheelhouse and he delivers with his portrayal of this slightly snobby blue blood family patriarch who, as the night goes on, starts to seriously lose it as our main heroine continues to make the family’s mission that much more difficult. Yet even when you factor in such performers as Adam Brody who was terrific in a more complex role than one might expect from a film like this to Mark O’Brien, Melanie Scrofano, and Kristian Bruun to name but a few there is no doubt that everyone involved with this movie looks like they are having an absolute blast with the material and that twisted joy carries over to their work on this film wonderfully.
All in all I can safely say that with Ready or Not, the creative team behind it have managed to give movie goers something truly remarkable. That being they have managed to make a horror-comedy film that is a triumph for both of its respective genres and yet feels very much like one that is a cohesive effort. Indeed make no mistake: this movie is highly comedic. At the same time however, what is at stake is able to give off the vibe of being incredibly realistic to say nothing of the fact that the perilous atmosphere is able to stay apparent right from the word go. Indeed horror-comedy has long been a difficult genre of movie magic for film helmers to pull off so the fact that this duo was able to speaks phenomenally well for their future in the industry. Yet when you also factor in a delightfully twisted cast of characters played a truly game cast, a narrative that is actually fairly novel for this respective genre, terrific work behind the camera in bringing the vibrant and yet also haunting world of the film so vividly to life in every way from set design to score, and an instantly iconic turn from lead actress Samara Weaving, Ready or Not may be a slice of cinema that initially slipped past your radar, but trust me when I say that this is one cinematic game you will want to play time and time again. Make of that what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give Ready or Not “2019” a solid 4 out of 5.