One of the bigger surprises of the year in the genre world was Ready or Not from directors Tyler Gillet and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, who previously delivered audiences segments in V/H/S and Southbound, as well as 2014's Devil's Due. The film was praised for its blend of humor and horror, its underlying themes about capitalism, and a star-turning performance from lead Samara Weaving. In addition to being a strong enough film in its own right, another reason it was praised by audiences is because it was one of the best thrillers of the year that was didn't have to cash in on an established franchise to draw an audience.
The sanctity of marriage goes straight to hell when a young bride (Weaving) competes in a time-honored tradition with her new husband (Mark O'Brien) and his insanely rich and eccentric Le Domas family (Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell). The bride's wedding night takes a turn for the worst when she realizes she is at the center of a lethal game of "Hide and Seek" and must fight her not-so-loveable in-laws for her own survival.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Gillet and Bettineli-Olpin to discuss the film's development, collaborating with Weaving, and if there are other well-known franchises they'd like to explore.
ComicBook.com: The film's title is clearly a reference to the schoolyard game of Hide and Seek, so has this film's success led you to consider adapting Duck, Duck, Goose or Marco Polo into horror movies?
Tyler Gillet: I mean, we are now. We didn't know that there was going to be an audience for them, but I guess we better start building that universe fast.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: One of the things that I think just grabbed us from the get-go with Ready or Not was that the premise, at its core, there is this intrinsic lightheartedness, this sense of fun, and it was so fun to read that and then see it just wildly flipped on its head. The tone was very much ... that was the start of it, for us, was that there was a game we are all super familiar with at the core of the conceit and then putting an insane genre spin to it was a blast.
The two of you worked together on this and other former collaborators helped bring the project to life, so what was that overall collaborative process like?
Bettinelli-Olpin: It was a really, really collaborative process from day one. We got the script sent to us by Tripp [Vinson] and Jamie [Vanderbilt], the producers, and we got in a room with them and we got in a room with [writers] Guy [Busick] and Ryan [Murphy] and just talked about it and then we took it out to Fox Searchlight and, once they got on board, it really just felt like a team effort the whole way through. In terms of Guy and Ryan, they were sending us updated pages up until the last like four days of production.
That's how involved everybody was and it was just a really collaborative experience for all of us, I think. And, at the end of the day, it really just made the project a lot more fun to work on because we all got to work on it together and I think us getting involved as directors, our big thing that we brought to it, was just the tone. That was something that we do. It's something that we love and it's something that you don't see very often. That kind of tone that rides the line between humor and horror and so, for Searchlight to take a chance on us and let us do it, it was just like a dream come true.
Having previously spoken with Samara about the process, she expressed how she felt so open to collaborating with you guys to bring her character to life. Do you remember any specific moments or perspectives that she brought to it that you hadn't thought out already?
Gillet: We love hearing that, that you had a great conversation with Sam and that she mentioned that. We've always approached the process from a "best idea wins" standpoint and obviously we have a very clear idea of what the project is to us and what we want to do with it. For Sam's role, in particular, for the role of Grace, the movie is on her shoulders the entire time and the believability of the situation and the tone of the movie is all at stake. That's all Sam who's going to carry us through that, this crazy journey. It was just incredibly valuable that she be involved as early as possible to bring her ideas into the mix and to put her spin on it.
Because if she doesn't believe it in the moment, then the audience doesn't believe it in the moment and it all falls apart; and there were a ton of moments throughout the shoot where I think we were on set and we got the version that was in our head and then Sam would say, "Hey, let me just try something, let me try this.", and would totally surprise us. Her laugh during the explosions at the end was one of the moments that really stands out to us. She just, after, I don't know, three takes, is like, "Guys I feel like I'd be laughing through this experience," and we were like, "Alright, let's try it," and we cannot imagine that scene without that reaction.
It completely, completely makes that moment what it is. That the audience is able to, again, be fully on her side and laugh and be grossed out by the absurdity of the situation and, it's those little things, right? There's so many variables. You can't ever quantify them, but, man, you're always just one idea away from it either being really great and working well or just being good and fun and, thankfully, Sam was always bringing really interesting ideas to the process.
What were other key elements in delivering a tone that never got too campy but still had genuine humor in it?
Bettinelli-Olpin: That was our take from day one is that we don't want this to be goofy. We don't want it to be silly. We toe the line a little bit when we get close to some campy stuff with Helene and we were very aware of that. The Helene character is as far as we can go on one end and then the Adam Brody character grounds us on the other end, for the family. And then, of course, Samara grounds her story throughout. At the end of the day, it all came down to just grounding the characters and making sure it all felt very real and very lived in and very natural and, in the shooting and in the edit, we spent a lot of time walking that line.
I know we cut out a lot of jokes. There were more jokey things that were in the script that we ended up cutting because we just all agreed they felt like a reach and they ruined the tone in a weird way because we felt like the humor had to always come from the characters in the situation. As soon as it started to feel like we were trying for a joke, the jokes fell flat. It was a real process for us to maintain it, but I think we all knew exactly what we wanted from the get-go and it was just really sticking to what we've found to be the right tone. At the end of the day it just comes down to taste.
Gillet: When we were cutting it, cutting when things were off the rails, it was really obvious. There wasn't a whole lot of debate about, "Well, we don't know about that joke," or, "We should save that. We should linger more in this gory moment." It was always very collectively clear about how those guardrails were set.
Bettinelli-Olpin: That's really a testament to the guidelines of the script because what they did was so smart, I don't know if any of this was intentional, but it worked really well, is they would put little small little jokes into every scene. You had to always be aware of the humor in the movie, but then when we got on set, we found that the humor came from other places. We no longer needed those jokes, but, for the first development and that whole part of the process, it was really important to have them. We just didn't need them in the edit. It was really interesting and, honestly Guy, Ryan, Tripp, Jamie, [editor] Terel [Gibson], everybody was really involved in that, and Searchlight, as well.
With many of your films, you draw audiences in with one type of premise and deliver them something entirely unexpected. Is there a franchise that you'd like to get involved in to deliver an unexpected entry into?
Gillet: I'm not sure if we've given any thought specifically to existing franchises that do that, but I know that we like to surprise ourselves. I think a lot of what excites us and keeps us motivated creatively is when we feel like we are not only mentally part of telling a story that feels a little bit different, but that in the telling of it we're going to get to have a different experience. We're going to engage characters we haven't really seen before, a dynamic that we haven't really seen before. I think, speaking specifically to the lineage of all the work that we've made, I think the thing for us that we love the most is what allows us to do this crazy tonal dance and really pull the rug out from under the audience. Telling stories that essentially are about normal people, right? People that we recognize, people that we see ourselves in and then putting them in just totally bat-shit crazy situations or circumstances that they have to fight their way out of or fight their way through.
It feels like in the movies that exist in the franchises that we love also tend to do that. They, instead of steering towards the superficial spectacle stuff, they actually look inward and they're more about the characters and those emotional stories and I think that's where we grow most of our ideas from. That's how we like to start.
Bettinelli-Olpin: I can't think of any. I'm with you, man. It's when we see a movie that does it, we always go, "Yeah, we wish we made that."
WARNING: Spoilers below for Ready or Not
When the film ends, Grace has survived the ordeal and is discovered by the cops. What would the next day look like for her? Would she have found freedom or be locked up for all these mysterious deaths?
Bettinelli-Olpin: We've actually talked about it a lot and I feel like we want to let the audience figure that out for themselves. I think we all have our own opinion. I know we've talked a lot about it in terms of like the Terminator 2 model of Sarah Connor, nobody believes her kind of thing. As for what that next day is, I think we can safely say that it would be a chaotic, to say the least.
Gillet: We really did want the audience to feel, at the end, that while she's been through hell, that it hasn't driven her crazy. It hasn't broken her and we hope that that final line is, there's enough self awareness in it and it's not coming from somebody who's irrationally broken by this experience. She's made it out and she has perspective. She's going to be okay. And we talked a lot about that, like, how can we do that in as economic a way as possible? Ultimately, that final line, we think, does it pretty damn well.0comments
Ready or Not is available now on Digital HD and on Blu-ray and DVD on December 3rd.