‘Ready or Not’ Is One of the Summer’s Best Surprises

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Recently, Universal’s forthcoming horror satire The Hunt has been postponed indefinitely due to claims of violence in movies and video games having something to do with mass shootings in America. People compared Fox Searchlight’s Ready or Not to The Hunt in questioning why one violent movie was taken off the schedule, and one was not. Some said it’s because Ready or Not isn’t an inherently political movie. Those people clearly have not seen it.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is getting married to Alex (Mark O’Brien), of the eccentric and obscenely wealthy Le Domas family. After the wedding, she learns she will have to join the family by playing a randomly selected game that evening. And if she is dealt a specific card, it may have deadly consequences.

This is one of the best films of the summer, and among the best horror-comedies I’ve ever seen. Combining wall-to-wall suspense with a deliciously campy and knowing tone, this is a film that knows exactly what it is and how far to push a particular joke or scare before it feels like too much. This is due to a very perceptive and snappy script by writing team R. Christopher Murphy and Guy Busick. This film also indulges in its sleazy, gory genre pic aesthetics to an extent, but knows exactly how far to push all of that as well. It manages to be surprising (even with a promotional trailer that gives away far too much) and stirringly edge-of-your-seat thrilling the entire way through.

Samara Weaving is giving a tour-de-force performance in the first piece of work I’ve seen from her. This is a role that requires everything from its star. This is Blake Lively in The Shallows or Kaya Scodelario in Crawl material – a deceitfully smart genre pic that demands all of its leading actress, and Weaving is nothing short of a revelation. Grace is vulnerable, terrified and ultimately empowered and badass, but she’s always questioning why she has to wear all of these hats, not to mention why she has to do all of this in a wedding dress. She bears a striking resemblance to another Australian actress, Margot Robbie, and in a perfect Hollywood, there would be enough room for both of these talented leading ladies to coexist and thrive alongside each other.

We have a very talented, very game ensemble surrounding Weaving. Andie MacDowell plays the crossbow-wielding matriarch, and she is so much fun to watch when she’s cast in the right role. She seems so happy to not be in a Lifetime original movie, and her enthusiasm carries the part a long way. Henry Czerny plays the father, and he’s a character actor that mostly works on television. He’s also quite good, but the real standout of the supporting cast is Nicky Guadagni who plays Aunt Helene. First seen sitting at the wedding, staring at Grace with a withering scowl, you know she’s going to be trouble, and she is. She’s a hoot to watch.

Directing team Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett gives this B-movie an elite sensibility, combining beautiful production design with some genuinely great cinematography. But the film says a lot about the world around it without being overly explicit about what it means to say about class and also politically. The eccentric and wealthy family could easily be any American family with power, and the film has a lot to say about those with unearned power that have no idea what to do with it. The majority of the Le Domas clan are vapid, rich kid stereotypes but the film observes them in a way that feels a lot more interesting than it may have with lesser filmmakers.

So, this brings me to my earlier point about The Hunt. We need satirical horror films to illuminate truths about the world around us. Ready or Not may be less explicit in what it’s trying to say, but at the same time not at all. It’s a satire about class warfare and sociopathic wealthy people who will gleefully kill others if it keeps their wealth unharmed. I hope The Hunt is eventually released in theaters, although I’m bitter it is being shelved at the moment because it would make for a killer double feature with Ready or Not. On its own, Ready or Not is a joyously bizarre crowd-pleaser that embraces every weird twist and turn, and is one of the summer’s best surprises.

 

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