Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie McDowell Runtime: 95 mins
Ready Or Not manages to balance fun with suspense, its fast pace keeps the viewer onboard throughout the simple but bonkers premise. The film opens with Grace, who is marrying into the Le Domas board game dynasty (or dominion as they prefer), practicing her vows ahead of a garden wedding in the grounds of the Le Domas’ estate. We soon meet her fiance Alex who in a bout of flirty banter suggests they ditch the wedding and run away together. Turns out this isn’t a bad idea.
While Grace and Alex are making out in his room, they’re interrupted by his elderly Aunt Helene who announces that it’s time they come and join the family for a game. Alex goes on to explain that this is a quirky family tradition; each married couple must take part in a game starting at midnight to initiate the new family member. Grace agrees to humour her new in-laws and joins the fam in a room hidden in the middle of the house by big antique doors which wouldn’t look out of place in Cluedo. Here, Alex’ father Tony goes on to explain that the Le Domas’ attribute their wealth and success to a deal to a wager his great-grandfather made during a sea voyage with Mr. Le Bail. The wager involved a mysterious box which Tony explains randomly selects the game to be played by the incoming family member. Grace draws Hide and Seek, the family play an old-timey Hide and Seek song on a gramophone and she goes off to hide. What she doesn’t know is that if they catch her, they’ll kill her.
Ready Or Not borrows from the story lines of cult horror, the aesthetics of adventure stories, mingles it together with fabulous acting from Samara Weaving and the fast pace carries us through what is quite a bare premise. The Le Domas house is stunning and the directors take the time to give us sweeping views of the chandeliers, gorgeous staircase and massive grounds in a way that’s reminiscent of Spanish horror. The characters are quite broadstrokes; all we know about Grace is she was a foster child and that she’s been with Alex for 18 months, we get a sense of her personality but we don’t really get a feel for the others. The film has a You’re Next vibe but it actually gives Grace more credit than Erin gets in You’re Next; Grace hasn’t been trained by her father to be a survivalist, her ability to adapt and react to this situation and come out on top is entirely down to her own competence. She knows when to hide and when to fight and it’s refreshing to see a woman in a horror film who isn’t just screaming and falling over.
At times it feels like the film is dipping its toe into social commentary territory, like when the maids get killed and the family barely react or when Grace exclaims ‘Fucking rich people’ when she’s running for her life but it’s all very surface-level stuff, particularly because the film is moving at breakneck speed through its plot. Still, we’re in a safe pair of hands with duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett who have collaborated previously on horror titles VHS, Southbound and Devil’s Due. They’re well versed in the genre and it allows them to turn horror conventions on their head. Ready Or Not is slick and it blends in humour in a way many horror films of the moment are trying and failing to accomplish. This film should have been released earlier in the summer, it definitely had the mileage.(4 / 5)