The new horror/thriller “READY OR NOT” is in theaters this week directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, with Samara Weaving in the lead as Grace. The story in this one revolves around a bride who on her wedding night stays over with her filthy rich in-laws at their lavish estate. But it isn’t going to be a common sleepover for this newlywed. The family fortune was built on selling games to the world over generations, and on this night they all take part in a game that will be the most terrifying one of this young woman’s life.
I will admit that despite the trailers looking like a good time, I didn’t have the highest of expectations for this movie. I worried it would result in a routine horror romp with some blood, some killing, and maybe a couple laughs. As well as the usual dark and ominous backdrops blended with the procedural musical scoring in an attempt to create some tension, and probably a collection jump-scares. I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist, but as a fan of the genre I tampered my excitement as to not be letdown. I didn’t want to go in and hope for something unique, only to get a mashup of genre tropes and flat characters that inevitably get picked off one-by-one while generated zero emotional investment.
Always in hopes of a good time at the movie’s nun the less, I kept an open mind and I think it turned out to be good luck because I had such a great time with this movie and the energetic tone it carried. It knew exactly what is was, and what it wanted to be. It seemed like it felt confident in its story as it was, and it didn’t try and force moods or tones by skewing too far off course. This allowed it to play out with a fun natural progression despite its massive levels of eccentricity and quirkiness. The plot is more than a little on the absurd side. But there is a foundation to it and plenty of motivational layering as well that make watching it surprisingly captivating, and even unpredictable in areas.
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At first glance this seems like a common, self-indulgent wealthy family. But they are a wildly bizarre family as well and with that comes a fresh, charming appeal to the simplistic plot-line of a singular character trying to survive a group of attackers for the night. Something we have all seen done before. With this structure it incorporates a variety of character-types that in turn provide a vibrant mix of personalities. With that comes different emotional tones and responses from them all as the story advances. There were things to like and dislike about all the family members that does add mild amounts of intrigue and this substance to the characters goes a long way in terms of entertainment.
This ensemble of characters also allowed for a variety to the comical swings. And added with some nicely crafted writing, the humor was a great complement to the more grim, darker moments of the narrative. There weren’t clearly placed jokes for the sole intent of landing a laugh. Instead there were crazy situations, blunt visuals, stark violence, story misdirection, and the animated reactions from the characters that landed genuine amusement throughout. The movie delivers equal amounts of suspense and violence but cuts it with a sense-of-humor that never felt overly out of place. The combination worked for me and it had my attention locked in for the entirety. And with a modest runtime, it doesn’t wear out its welcome. It also provides just enough exposition and leaves enough for the imagination which is something I enjoyed and simply wasn’t expecting from this one.
There is no question the performances were what made this movie. The writing was very capable without question. But the cast elevated it with their charisma behind the lead of Samara Weaving who was truly the heart of this film. She brought a ton of emotion to the role as well as a strong comedic timing that made her very much feel like a common, relatable person in today’s world. Her responses and reactions felt genuine which certainly helped ground the over-the-top story themes just enough. You can’t help but connect with this character through her performance, which makes you naturally want to see the story out with her. The members of the Le Domas family were fantastic. Andie MacDowell was extremely capable and layered as the mother with a sincere side and very much a callous one as well. Adam Brody was great as the conflicted member of the family that goes along with but does not agree with the family traditions. And then you have the patriarch of the family played excellently by Henry Czerny who clearly embraced this role, as everyone did. The energy and charm from everyone elevated their characters to fit the tone of the story perfectly, and I enjoyed getting to know all of them and their layers of controlled insanity.
From a technical aspect this is a solid film with strong visual appeal. The cinematography and the direction complement one another nicely to create both a warm an inviting, but also ominous backdrop for the story. One that succeeds in building its own atmosphere despite is similarities to other movies singular locations and related plot-lines. This isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a very capable one that knew its intent and never veered off course. It’s ridiculous in all the ways you want with just enough seriousness to connect it all. I would have liked a little more killing in the second-act, and maybe some added intensity in certain areas could have gone along was as well. There were also some recycled themes in the film that could have been changed up as well to pull the progression from its mildly formulaic structure. But regardless it all works together nicely to create a solid horror/thriller that is worth checking out.