Directors: Matt Bettinell-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scorofano, Kristan Bruun, Nicky Guadagni
Written by: Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy
Running Time: 95 mins
Release date: 25th September 2019
One of the toughest cross-genre styles in cinema is comedy horror. Many have tried to get that balance of shocks and giggles correct, but most fail. An American Werewolf In London got it right. The Evil Dead got it right. It’s all about sustaining the laughs throughout while still having the guts to keep the horror working. Now we have Ready Or Not, a tale of a deadly game that starts off low-key and builds to a gory finale while being laugh-out-loud funny.
Grace is marrying Alex La Domas, the heir to a vast game empire. His family has a tradition for anyone joining the clan. At midnight, the newcomer must play a game. Most games are harmless fun except one and Grace has got it. Hide and seek. What she thinks is hiding in the enormous house and not being discovered till dawn, she has no idea that the family are playing for real. If they find her, she dies.
Starting off pleasantly, with the wedding at the La Domas estate, you get the sense that the family are not what they seem. Alex has estranged himself, and the marriage could be his way back in. Matriarch Becky seems supportive to Grace, while Aunt Helene doesn’t appear to like Grace. It allows us to be introduced to this eccentric group which have sinister running through them.
What works well is the humour, or the horror doesn’t play out until the game begins. Once Grace is hiding in this gothic mansion, directors Matt Bettinell-Olpin and Tyler Gillett allow the very dark humour to seep in. The jokes are based on the body count, as the game-play takes innocent victims as they hunt their prey through the corridors and secret passages.
It zips along at a tremendous pace, never wasting a second of the film with flab or pointless subplots. This is a straight forward cat and mouse tale with a deadly ending. Even when the finale comes and the revelation that this is more than just a game, the comedy is upped along with the gore. The violence is never graphic or lingering but almost playful. It is an 18 certificate, and rightly so, but unlike, say the Saw films, this is done with tongue rammed deep into the cheek.
The performances are all pitch-perfect, with each character nicely sketched out. Andie MacDowell, as the caring Becky, seems to be having plenty of fun in the kind of film you wouldn’t expect to see her in. Henry Czerny, as the leader of the family, has an air of arrogance that works well. Yet it is Samara Weaving as Grace who carries the film with aplomb. This Margot Robbie lookalike lights up the screen, and on the strength of this performance, a star is born.
Ready or Not is a whole heap of fun. Dark humour, creepy atmosphere and enough gore to keep the hardcore horror fans happy. It might not set the box office alight, but this is undoubtedly a cult hit. Terrific gory fun.