Samara. Weaving. Is. A. Horror. Movie. God. This is what I expect everyone will be, or should be, saying now that one of the most original horror films of the year, Ready or Not, has sliced its way into theaters…
…Easily one of my most anticipated horror films of the year, Ready or Not, is finally here, and its spectacular. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett (both having previously done segments for V/H/S and Southbound) and written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, Ready or Not tells the story of Grace (Samara Weaving), a bride to be about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien) and become a part of the Le Domas “gaming dynasty”, as she puts it. Turns out that, like all families, the Domas’ have a tradition. Whenever someone marries into the family, they must play a game randomly selected by an instrument which the Domas family believes is possessed by a great power that oversees their fortunes. 9/10 times, that game is something simple, like checkers. But, unknown to Grace, if that card is “Hide and Go Seek”, then the family is forced to hunt and kill the newcomer as a ritual sacrifice. Guess which one Grace draws?
I’m not going to make this all about Weaving, but look, it’s about time general audiences get to know who she is. Weaving has been slaying in the horror genre for years, with films like The Babysitter and Mayhem, and she absolutely kills it in Ready or Not, pun totally intended. Weaving is like a cheat code for film. Anything she’s in is automatically better because of her. She’s one of the best genre actresses working right now, and every reason why is on display with her performance as Grace. She’s funny, charming, swears like a sailor, has a scream that could shatter church windows, and is all around utterly compelling. She also delivers one of the most vicious performances I’ve seen from her, transforming into an all-out, snarling animal once the killing begins.
But it’s not all about Weaving. Aside from her and the endearing, sweet O’Brien as Alex, the filmmakers have put together a rich cast of villains that you’ll love to watch. Ready or Not features an all-star cast of characters, including Adam Brody as miserable brother, Daniel, coked out fuck up, Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), overbearing parents Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell), psychopath, Charity (Elyse Levesque) and her blundering husband, Fitch (Kristian Bruun). And my personal favorite of the bunch, Aunt Helene, played by Nicky Guadagni, who brings some brilliant physical comedy to the role that will have audiences cheering for her, despite her bloodlust.
What’s so great about these villains is that they’re not the monsters you think they are. There’s a heavy theme of family and doing what’s best for them because, love them or not, they’re all you have. Most of the Domas family either doesn’t want to kill, or has never done so, because the Hide and Seek card is dispersed so rarely. This is the family that slays together and stays together, all because they think something bad will happen to them if they don’t, based on a long history of myth that they believe in deeply. The filmmakers and performances had me sympathizing with just about everyone in the film, especially Daniel, who wants no part in this, but is being forced into it. We’ve all been there, right? Probably not with the killing, but who hasn’t wanted to cut off their own arm to avoid that brutal family reunion?
Part of the charm with these people and Ready or Not overall is that the film is shockingly funny. Honestly, I couldn’t stop laughing, and neither could the rest of the crowd in my dark theater. Ready or Not takes a “lighter” approach to the whole Satanist plotline, poking fun at Satanic cult tropes and the people doing the sacrificing. Witnessing Emilie constantly causing deadly accidents and seeing Aunt Helene take way too much pleasure in finishing off maids who just won’t die never gets old, and the filmmakers make sure of it, providing just the right amount of laughs during the most surprising moments. Ready or Not is the kind of film that is meant to share with a crowd in a theater, where we can all feel okay about laughing at a person accidentally crushing themselves in a dumbwaiter.
And yes, Ready or Not is exactly the gleeful gorefest you’d expect. The fun the filmmakers had making this film is on full display, with gallons of blood being splashed on screen. The mansion in which Ready or Not takes place is transformed into an all-out slaughterhouse as everyone runs around with clunky weapons and a hesitant taste for blood. This film revels in the gore instead of shying away from it. I hope you like brain matter, because there’s a lot of it in Ready or Not. And I know things like this are said often in reviews and don’t always live up to the hype, but trust me when I say that Ready or Not has the bloodiest ending of the year. Weaving ends up looking like Carrie on her wedding night, which is going to really upset admirers of her beautiful dress. Seriously, I felt like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, my eyes were so wide open and delighted at the carnage on screen.
Honestly, I don’t have anything negative to say about Ready or Not. All I would add is that, if you’re expecting a royal wedding version of You’re Next, toss that out right now. Weaving certainly gets her cathartic moments, but let’s just say I wouldn’t expect to see her picking off everyone one by one. All in all, Ready or Not is a game you’ll want to play over and over again. Don’t deny shoving this delicious wedding cake of a horror film into your face.
Ready or Not is now slaying in a theater near you.
By Matt Konopka