The line between horror and comedy can be a very fine one, but when the two genres blend together well, it creates one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences audiences can have. With Ready or Not, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (from the horror collective known as "Radio Silence") go for a film that mixes zany horror-comedy with a deeper subtext about the struggles of fitting into a family unit. And, to their credit, the attempt results in a nice (if imperfect) win.
The story revolves around Grace Le Domas (Samara Weaving), a young bride who marries into the eccentric family of Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien) - a family whose wealth and status outclass any life Grace has known. The wedding day goes smoothly, but what should be a pleasurable night of consummation turns into something much more demented. Grace is lured into playing a game with the Le Domas family - one which kicks off a dark family ritual: The Le Domas version of "Hide and Seek," which turns out to be a life-or-death hunt around their mansion with Grace as the quarry. However, the new bride isn't the token pretty girl the Le Domas family hopes: Grace refuses to be the victim of her crazy rich in-laws, and instead mounts her own attack on the murderous Aristocrats.
Ready or Not is, as stated, a successful blend of over-the-top comedy and thrilling horror, but doesn't greatly excel at either of those two genre tropes. The film oscillates between moments of terror, agonizing gore, offbeat comedic dialogue and downright slapstick comedy with a rhythm that is not always smooth or consistent. For viewers not aware of what Ready or Not is truly offering, the expectation of horror scares will go somewhat unfulfilled. However, for fans who love the horror-comedy hijinks of Evil Dead or You're Next, Ready or Not will be a blast of fun that echoes the spirits of those other films, yet is still distinguished by establishing its own signature and style. That includes a nicely polished and darkly lavish look to the film, with many images and set pieces that will stick with viewers, and gives Ready or Not a classic Gothic horror aesthetic that works well in the mansion setting.
The cast is well-selected mix of familiar and new faces. Samara Weaving (SMILF, Ash vs Evil Dead) is a solid horror leading lady for modern times, nailing down the many facets of Grace, from the initial charm to make you care; the horror and anguish when she's put through the macabre and demented ringer; and finally the emerging edge as Grace embraces her inner badass and takes a stand against her tormentors. While Weaving is good holding down the center, she's arguably outshone by Adam Brody (The O.C., Shazam), who steals every scene he's in playing Alex's boozy, dry-witted and understatedly melancholic brother, Daniel Le Domas.
While Weaving and Brody both shine bright, the supporting cast gives them both a run for their money, scene-for-scene. Andie MacDowell eats up scenery playing Le Domas matriarch Becky with snake-like menace; Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible, Quantico, Sharp Objects) breaks his usual stoic facade to give a wonderfully over-the-top turn as the Le Domas patriarch Tony; Melanie Scrofano (Wyona Earp) and Elyse Levesque (Orphan Black) are cut-ups as two of the drug-addled and/or snobbish Le Domas socialites; and Nicky Guadagni (Cube, The Handmaid's Tale) is an outright Tasmanian Devil as the maniacal "Aunt Helene. All in all, the cast seem to be having gleefully twisted fun playing their respective characters, and trying to outdo one another in the crazy department.
All in all, Ready or Not is a whole lot of crazy fun from a pair of directors that are still a bit rough around the edges, but quickly finding their niche. So long as you know what you're getting into, it's good fun for this late summer season.
Rating: 4 out 5 Stars
Ready or Not is now in theaters. It is 1 hours 35 minutes long, and is Rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use.