Directed By Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Starring – Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien
The Plot – The film follows a young bride (Weaving) as she joins her new husband’s (O’Brien) rich, eccentric family (Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell) in a time-honored tradition that turns into a lethal game with the bride fighting for her survival till dawn.
Rated R for violence, bloody images, adult language throughout, and some drug use
– Ideal setting. The entirety of this movie takes place in and around this immense mansion, full of stretching secret hallways and unlimited isolation, which make it the perfect board for all of the pieces to intersect one another. The interiors have a gothic style to their decor, speaking volumes in preservation to just how long this family tradition has been taking place, and the surrounding woods that surround this place in the woods allows freedom free from the clutches of the law, which in turn feeds into the mentality that the rich are above it. The dark contrast of cinematography inside of the mansion to that of the wedding sequence in the beginning of the film lends itself to the idea of this secretive world that Weaving’s character has become a part of, and further fleshed out the air of freedom that she said goodbye to once the ceremony ended. Major respect to the set designer for making not only the mysticism of this family come to life, but also the articulation in believability that helps our protagonist against the overwhelming odds.
– Strange backstory device. In a normal movie, we would come to understand the grit of our heroine with each brush with death that she comes across, but something with “Ready Or Not” truly surprised me, and that’s where the movie chooses to invest its backstory on. Not only do we learn so little about our protagonist, but in turn we learn almost everything about our antagonists, fleshing them out in a vibrant way that puts weight on the cause and effects that the game has had on all of them. This takes a rich family, and forces us to make as many connections with them as possible, giving meaning to their mayhem, that while not entirely justifiable, is at least captured in a way where all of the pieces of intention line up smoothly. I’ve always said that the best antagonists in films are the ones we can dissect and give meaning to, and this family is given so much time, that we the audience in turn feel like a distant cousin who is in on their secrets and personality quirks.
– Superbly paced. As far as entertainment factor goes, “Ready Or Not” might be one of my favorite films of 2019 thus far. Its barely 90 minute run time never stilts its growth with each passing development, nor does it breeze through the details in a way that makes them easy to miss. Instead, this is a film that values exposition and violence seamlessly, and constantly keeps the fun in anxiety prominent throughout a film that is always moving forward. This is never more solidified than in the opening twenty minutes, which take us through the wedding, the celebration, and the beginning of the game with ease, making it the perfect recommendation for someone who finds difficulty in movies that require two hours for everything to materialize. I never once checked my watch during any point in this film, and even through the hour-and-a-half that I was given, I felt that twenty more minutes in this environment could’ve only added to the positivity encased in its well-crafted production.
– Expositional dialogue. Nothing feels heavy or out of place here, instead allowing conversation pieces to flow naturally, giving us knowledge in the details of what’s explained between character dynamics. For example, we the audience already know the rules of the game because of the trailers we sat through, but it’s really the meaning behind the why that catapults our intrigue, and forces us to hang on to every dialogue exchange bit-by-bit instead of one long-winded diatribe that we’ve come to expect in cinema. When the bigger picture is seen in completion, we have a brief history of the game that gives certain in-laws around the table still living believability and understanding for how they could’ve possibly survived these rituals, considering they aren’t the brightest crayons in the box.
– Perfect casting. Everyone here is off the chain in complimenting the film where it requires it, but the work of Weaving, Brody, and a rambunctious aunt by the name of Nicky Guadagni easily stole my attention in every scene they are given to chew up the scenery. For Weaving, what’s remarkable is there isn’t much a transformation to her character considering we learn very little about her along the way, but rather her instinct and brawn, which pay off immensely for the dependence of her survival. Weaving’s dry wit is also on display here, depositing several one liners in a defeated way that easily makes her the protagonist we can get behind, if only for how her reactions replicate ours the audience from just beyond the screen. Brody is the M.V.P for me, balancing sarcasm and alcoholism in a way that colorfully outlines the past for this tortured soul, and preserves him as this dark horse of sorts for a family so opposite of him in motivations.
– Tonal hybrid. One of the most difficult combos in genre offerings to balance is comedy and horror, yet “Ready Or Not” masters both sides of the coin without ones volume ever compromising the other. Much of the humor works for me because it’s so off-the-wall because of this plot that you can’t help but laugh out of nervousness and awkwardness that never leave the heart of the environment. As for horror, there is not only solid violence depicted in the form of top-notch prosthetic and make-up work, but also a strong amplification of suspense that is highlighted by Brian Tyler’s encompassing musical score. The third act definitely depends more on the humorous aspects, but it’s a transition that I will love more than other people will, if only for the way it gives weight to the things we believe in that eventually catch up to us, leading to a final five minutes that has to be seen to be believed.
– Upper class satire. Without question, the most rewarding scenes for me were the ones where this wealthy family struggle with certain aspects because none of them have ever been forced to get their hands dirty in the many ways the film requires them to. There’s a struggle with weaponry as seen in the trailers, but really it’s more towards the privilege that each of them inherits that presents an entirely different circumstance of challenges than those of a disappearing bride. This is a film that isn’t afraid to embarrass its antagonists, and some of that shame comes with the reward of satisfaction from those of us who love to watch them squirm, eventually giving way to a barrage of Youtube self-help and butler accommodation that speaks volumes to the kind of social commentary that goes well beyond stereotypical.
– Leaves room for future installments. I don’t say this often in the horror world, but I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more childhood games brought to life with a devilish rendering in following chapters. From the very beginning, it’s clear that “Ready Or Not” has touched on something positive here for the horror community, balancing endless brutality with a self-aware tone that welcomes the fun into the environment, so I would be a liar if I said that I wouldn’t want to embrace this feeling again, albeit with an entirely new set of characters and game that could follow the satisfying formula cemented by this initial chapter. While this plot is wrapped up in a way that is fulfilling to the conflict of the plot given to us, the script leaves enough meat on the bone of optimism to make us wonder what devious roads they could take us down next. I’m talking to you, Red Rover.
– Erroneous tidbits. There were a couple of things in the film that I feel could’ve and should’ve been written out of the finished final draft. One comes in the form of dialogue from the auntie character, who says she hopes the bride can hide better than that, long before the game has ever been picked for her. I was hoping it would lead to a revelation that the game was rigged for the bride to receive this punishment because certain family members don’t like her, but it never happens, and leaves this line feeling entirely out of place with the sequencing of events within the film. My other problems stem from two second half character switches, which would’ve worked fine without the twists given to them. To say this without spoiling things, their twists never mean anything consequential to where they end up, so essentially they aren’t needed in the first place, and only feel like unnecessary padding for the sake of the movie to reach its 90 minute plateau.
– Special effects. This is only in the case of that batshit finale that I earlier referenced. There are some violent ends that require special effects to sell their impacts, but the editing and pasting of these blows are done so sloppily that you can easily see the cuts in between their riveting nature. It creates an emptiness of artistic merit that was almost entirely consistent up to that point, and makes me wish the film’s editing would’ve been as crisp as it was in earlier scenes with a character getting an arrow in the throat. That particular scene rattled with an intensity and speed that made it impossible to see the strings in the trick, supplanting believability before you even have a second to question its artificiality.
My Grade: 8/10 or A-