READY OR NOT ˝
R, 95 mins.
2019, R, 95 mins.
Samara Weaving as Grace / Andie MacDowell as Becky Le Domas / Mark O'Brien as Alex Le Domas / Adam Brody as Daniel Le Domas / Henry Czerny as Tony Le Domas / Nicky Guadagni as Helene Le Domas / Melanie Scrofano as Emilie Le Domas / Kristian Bruun as Fitch Bradley / Elyse Levesque as Charity Le Domas /
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett / Written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy
Just when you thought that the summer film season was all but over and done along comes READY OR NOT to emerge as one of the season's real eleventh hour diamond in the rough delights.
nasty, but darkly hysterical screwball horror comedy benefits greatly from
two things: (1) a wickedly nifty premise and (2) one of the most
thanklessly committed genre performances of the summer (if not the year)
by newcomer Samara Weaving, who runs the absolute emotional and physical
gauntlet here in a very tricky role that requires a unique mixture of
deadpan comic delivery, wounded vulnerability, and gritty, teeth clenched
READY OR NOT will certainly not be everyone's cup of tea (it's
perhaps too barbarically violent and ghastly for some), but there's no
denying how slickly produced it is as a relentlessly intense and
preposterously entertaining package.
looks astonishingly like Margot Robbie...it's positively uncanny) plays
Grace, a bride-to-be that's hopelessly in love with her fiancé, Alex
(Mark O'Brien), who's a part of a larger and unfathomably wealthy family
that has made a name for themselves as the makers of many beloved board
games (in this film's world their product is as common place as anything
made by Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers in our own).
"I honestly can't wait to be a part of your fucked up
family" she drolly lashes out at Alex just before their wedding
that would come to haunt her later.
The Le Domas family that she's about to join has a motley crew of
colorful eccentrics, like the alcoholic brother, Daniel (Adam Brody), the
pragmatic mother (Andie MacDowell), the creepy aunt (Nicky Guadagni) and
the soft spokenly stern father (Henry Czerny).
Grace has politely tolerated this clan in order to secure and
tighten her bond with Alex, but she's no gold digger.
She genuinely loves this man, despite his family's overall coldness
while around her.
ceremony goes off without much of a hitch at the Le Doma family mansion's
grounds, but just when Grace and Alex are about to consummate it his
steely eye aunt shows up to spoil the mood by cryptically informing him
that there's "one last ritual" that needs to be performed before
pesky Alex forgot to mention to the increasingly inquisitive Grace that
his family has...shall we say...a right of passage challenge that every
newcomer must partake in to officially become a real part of then.
At a vast dinning table with the entire family in tow, Grace is
given a strange box that will grant her a playing card that will indicate
what game she must play and win to become one with the Le Domas.
Her card reads "Hide and Seek", which makes her giggle at
its innocence, but everyone else in the room gasps like they've just seen
Grace gleefully partakes and begins to hide, but she soon realizes,
to her absolute horror, that this is not mere childish game of Hide and
Seek when it's revealed that all of her in-laws are armed to the teeth
with weapons and are trying to murder her as part of this game.
The hook of READY
OR NOT is pretty tantalizing.
Part of the sinful pleasure of watching this film early on is to
witness Grace naively taking part in this game without initially and fully
understanding that it's a part of some sort of demented satanic ritual the
family must conduct to ensure the bride's death by dawn...or face certain
death themselves by some unknown force or entity.
Obviously, when Grace sees her cocaine addicted sister-in-law (Melanie
Scrofano) accidentally murder a maid with her hunting weapon of choice she
fully realizes the danger she's in.
Grace becomes no mere damsel in distress, though, that her
concerned hubby will save.
She goes into John McClane cat and mouse mode in learning the
layout of the house, finding proper hiding spots, arming herself, and
ultimately defending her life no matter what the insane cost.
Alex is left anxiously waiting in the balance, who doesn't want his
new wife killed by his ritualistic family, but at the same time can't
bring himself to overtly betray them either.
Much of the dark humor of READY OR NOT comes at the expense of poor
Grace's shocking discoveries about the sheer madness that surrounds her
alongside seeing this family mentally unravel when each attempt to kill
her comes up short.
grindhouse premise of the film has a bit more thematically going on under
the hood as the narrative progresses, and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
and Tyler Gillett are simultaneously trying to make a blood curdling and
brain splattered Gothic Horror slasher flick alongside a scathing satiric
comedy about wealthy people that really, really abuse their sense
We all know the casual expression of how those in power
metaphorically get away with murder, but READY OR NOT takes that adage to
literal levels in showing the limitless insanity of those in power and how
they will stop at nothing to ensure their way of life...even if it means
using Grace as a sacrifice in a barbaric ritual.
There's an uneasy undercurrent of dread regarding the relationship
between the haves and the have nots in the world that punctuates this
film, with Grace being of the one per centers and the Le Domas family
occupying the opposite side of the economic ladder, only being sadistic
sociopaths on top of being self absorbed snobs.
Beyond that, READY OR NOT is a
snarky commentary piece on marriage itself and the lengths that
brides will go to in order to fit in...and boy...Grace really goes through
the ringer here for the sake of future harmony with her husband.
Weaving is, as
mentioned, the absolute key to holding this beyond nutty film together.
The Australian actress (niece of Hugo), has this adept manner of
harnessing the lurid comedic elements of her character's nightmarish
predicament while maintaining an authentic level of panic induced fright
at the same time.
But this is also a performance of intense and raw physicality as
well, as Grace has her mind, body and soul thrown into one ghoulish ordeal
after another (one involving a pit and an exposed nail will have people
cringing well before the preordained payoff).
Most importantly, Weaving evokes an effortless charm and appeal
here too on top of looking monumentally badass when, for example, finally
securing herself a bandolier and shotgun (a twisted visual juxtaposition
with her dirty and blood covered wedding dress).
This is a star making performance if there ever was one, and the
manner that Weaving gives layers and dimension to a role that could have
devolved into one-note victim with a lesser actress at the helm.
Mad props to some
of the supporting actors as well, especially the fly-in-under-the-radar
Brody, who nicely underplays his role of the family man and brother to
Alex that understands that his relatives are indeed mad, but pathetically
knows that he can't go against their will.
Complimenting the performances is the way the film offers up such a
ridiculous and out-there premise by never taking the road most traveled
approach with it (just when you think you know exactly where it's
headed...it doesn't take that path and defies expectations).
Still, READY OR NOT isn't a perfect thrill ride, mostly because its
third act is no way near as fiendishly clever as its first two thirds of
build up, and it's final moments goes for pure grotesque shock value.
But, holy hell, did I ever surprisingly enjoy the ride that this
film took me on, and READY OR NOT is equal parts hysterical, frightening,
sickening, and clever.
The film sneaks up on you in unsuspecting ways and has fun working
within horror troupes while giddily subverting them, making it one of
summer film season's best curveball thrown surprises.