Review: Ready or Not (2019)

After being featured at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival and Frightfest, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s latest film has been quietly making waves among critics and audiences alike. With a twisted family drama at its core, Ready or Not has the elements of the classic ‘hunted’ horror film. However, it is anything but.

After marrying Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) on his parents’ estate, Grace (Samara Weaving) is invited by his family to take part in a longstanding tradition of playing a game on her wedding night. She innocently draws ‘hide and seek’ but quickly finds herself as the target of the Le Domas family, who has to hunt and kill her before dawn.

First of all, Ready or Not has a very straightforward plot – there is a woman who is being hunted down by her new in-laws. Not only does this make it quite plain, but it increases the risk of being forgettable. With such a simplistic narrative, every other element of the film needs to deliver to make this memorable with audiences.

Thankfully, Ready or Not does this by challenging the conventions of a classic horror film – Grace is not a screaming damsel in distress, the villains are awkward and uncoordinated, and there are very few genre clichés. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett ensure that each character displays their own quirks and combines moments of comedic genius with those of grimacing horror.

Despite being seen as a ‘little blonde girl’, Grace is underestimated by her in-laws as her tough childhood makes her a resilient character. Rather than rely on the somewhat drippy (and insecure) Alex to help her, she takes it upon herself to take on the family with mixed results. As our heroine, Weaving becomes the queen of the understated as she delivers a standout performance with practically perfect comedic timing.

In addition, Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy’s hilarious script plays out like a typical dysfunctional drama tied with the frustrations of being a loser. Among Alex’s eclectic relatives, the pointed profanities of his dad Tony (Henry Czerny) highlight his desperation to win and alcoholic brother Daniel (Adam Brody) is openly indifferent to the family’s fate. There is also a clash between Le Domas’ older and younger generations, which reflect their respective faith and skepticism to what might happen if they stray from tradition. Ultimately, they are bound by family – which makes Grace’s odds all the more unfavourable…and all the more rewarding.

Overall, Ready or Not will appease both the squirmish and those on the dark side. Despite its simple premise, it plays it straight and it is a better film for it – in other words, it’s bloody brilliant.

Thanks for reading.

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