Our staff heads to the theater to check out “Ready or Not” — a witty, charming, balls-to-the-wall bloodbath that deals a real win for horror fans.
Intro by Angry Princess (Editor-in-Chief)
One of my favorite features on this site are what we call Morbid Minis. That’s when several of us on the writing staff head to the theater to check out a new horror release, returning to share a brief summary of our thoughts with you wonderful readers. I love it for a few reasons. One, I’m a huge believer in getting out, whenever possible, to support genre films in the theater. For those who are able, investing a bit of your time and money in these films is one of the best things you can do to help ensure us horror fans continue to get more great content. It also helps ensure studios will continue to back more original, intelligent, thought provoking, and entertaining genre films. When horror films are financially successful in the theater and on digital release, we all win.
The other reason these Morbid Minis are so great is that they showcase a strong diversity of opinion — letting you experience a film from different angles and perspectives. Horror fans are as different as the films that make up our beloved genre, and it’s important to hear from different voices. And because we have so many different kinds of horror fans represented on our writing team, you’ll typically find these group articles contain a mixed bag of positive and negative feedback for a film.
However, with READY OR NOT, the consensus is surprisingly unanimous. It may not be the biggest horror film of the year, or the most talked about. But there’s a good chance, when we look back at everything the genre gave us throughout the year, this one is likely to sit comfortably near the top of many “Best of 2019” lists. Brilliant in its simplicity and near flawless in its execution, READY OR NOT knows exactly the kind of film it wants to be — and it delivers in spades.
Although this relatively small dark horror comedy opened on fewer screens than most titles opening wide, it exceeded financial expectations — actually managing to give the indie label Fox Searchlight one of its best openings this decade. My hope is that positive word of mouth (like all the great reviews you’ll read below) will continue to bring fans to this unapologetically nasty and wickedly fun pulp horror thrill ride. Perfectly paced with pitch perfect performances, this is a film that deserves to be seen — and the kind of film horror fans deserve to see more of.
TAKE ONE: FRIGHTENS, BUT NOT FOR ANTICIPATED REASONS
By Marquis Ransom
“Ready or not, here I come, you can’t hide. Gonna find you and take it slowly.”
Fugees reference aside, Ready or Not was a fast paced flick, with even quicker executions. The gore and violence certainly wasn’t spared as deaths were handed out graciously, especially for maids.
With ancient weapons — making us wonder if Fitch (portrayed by Kristian Bruun) ever got to know his crossbow — vinyl records, and satanic rituals, the film touched on horrors much closer to home.
Classism was presented prominently from beginning to end.
Grace (Samara Weaving), a former foster child, was confronted with the anxiety of being judged a “gold digging whore” by her in-laws. The Le Domas’ wealth is treated as sacred treasure, to be protected at all cost, and any outsider seeking access must first pay their dues.
The rich only focus on keeping their riches and what they do to maintain that status quo is truly terrifying. So, whether it was echoed by Tony (Henry Czerny), Becky (Andie Macdowell), or crazy Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), the family should always prioritize the family, come hell or high water.
Over the course of the film, however, you get the sense of catharsis for Grace.
Given her upbringing, you’d think she’d be eager to embrace any obstacle, if it meant getting a fresh start in life. Instead, she showcased the opposite; much unlike her sister-in-law, Charity (Elyse Levesque) — appropriately named — who shared a similarly impoverished childhood as Grace. Charity never thought twice about selling her soul for the Le Domas’ fortune, whereas Grace slowly rejected the entire family, including her own husband, Alex (Mark O’Brien).
She is seen ripping apart her wedding dress, scene after scene, until it is no longer recognizable — a symbol for happily ever after. Perhaps the greatest line that summed up the film was when Grace, amidst all the chaos, simply stated, “Fucking rich people.”
Ready or Not was a fun end-of-summer blood fest, that cut deeper than expected. Although, with that said, an alcoholic Adam Brody (Daniel Le Domas) was a comedic delight.
TAKE TWO: A PITCH PERFECT, HIGHLY RE-WATCHABLE BLACK COMEDY
By Todd Reed
A blushing bride on her wedding night does not expect to end her first night running for her life from her in-laws.
But that’s exactly what happens in “Ready or Not”. Grace (Samara Weaving) weds Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), an heir to a family that made its wealth creating games (with a little help from a supernatural benefactor it seems). She soon finds out that one of the many traditions of the family is that she must play a game with them.
She is chosen to play Hide and Seek, but the consequences are far greater than simply being found. If they catch her, she will be sacrificed to their mysterious benefactor. Grace is soon running for her life as she tries to outwit her new family.
While I was disappointed in how much the trailer gave away, the movie still has its share of surprises.
It’s non-stop action from beginning to end. There’s gore aplenty, some decent tension, and it is just damn funny. The minute the credits rolled, I was ready to sit down and watch it again.
Samara Weaving showcased her comedy and horror chops in 2017’s The Babysitter, and she goes all out here, proving what a talented actress she is. She convinclingly displays every emotion, from joy to despair. She’s also buoyed by a talented cast, including Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Golden Globe nominee, Andie MacDowell.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, working with a script by Ryan Murphy and Guy Busick, do a stellar job with the pacing. Horror comedy can be a tough genre to get right, but they find the perfect balance allowing for some laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some cringe-inducing special effects.
I highly recommend Ready or Not. I can’t think of a movie I’ve seen this year that I had a better time watching.
TAKE THREE: A SOLID SCRIPT AND STELLAR CAST MAKE THIS FILM A STANDOUT
By Jamie Alvey
Ready or Not is a gleefully warped and delicious film that revels in all its bloody, dark humor.
There’s nothing that one can do to ready themselves for a viewing of this film. If you think you’re ready for it, trust me you’re not. It’s twisty and fun and exceeds all expectations.
It feels very much like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone, a perverse Ray Bradbury story, or a slickly updated remake of a forgotten satanic panic film from the 70s. It’s not a film to be missed if you have a soft spot for horror comedies.
Grace is marrying Alex Le Domas, whose family seems like your normal clan of stuck up and eccentric rich people. The Le Domases have made their riches through producing and selling board games for generations. Grace herself comes from a rough background, spending most of her life in and out of foster homes and desperately wants a family to call her own.
She thinks that she might have finally found her place in this world, but her hopes are quickly dashed when her in-laws force her into a deadlier version of the childhood staple hide and seek. The film devolves into truly insanely unpredictable territory after Grace learns that her in-laws plan on not simply initiating her into the family but using her as a sacrifice.
Samara Weaving does a spectacular job at making Grace relatable no matter how bizarre the plot gets.
Grace is the grounding point in all the absolute madness around here. She finds herself having to rise to the level of depravity that her new family is at in order to survive and handles it her own brand of gusto and humor. Her resourceful drive and sense of self possession make her one hell of horror heroine.
Weaving has been carving out her place in the horror genre for a while, but I think it can be safely said that, with Ready or Not, she has solidified herself as a brand new staple of the genre.
Adam Brody gives a nuanced and often hilarious performance as Daniel Le Domas, Alex’s alcoholic black sheep brother whose apathy for his family goes unmatched. If you enjoyed his nefarious lead singer Nikolai in Jennifer’s Body, you are sure to love him in this.
Other standouts include Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, and Nicky Guadagni. MacDowell’s Becky LeDomas is a southern ice queen whose niceness is nothing but a perfectly maintained veneer to hide her poisonous interior. Scrofano is delightfully inept as the only Le Domas daughter Emilie. Guadagni is both comical and severe as the drastic Aunt Helene.
While unrelenting in its humor and its insanity, Ready or Not isn’t afraid to touch on some more delicate and heartbreaking issues when it comes to both Grace and Daniel.
One being a foster kid who aged out of the system and the other being a deeply unhappy person with a drinking problem. It doesn’t hurt that both Weaving and Brody clearly understand their characters when it comes to approaching these sides of them. Adding this emotional weight to the film was a good call on the part of the screenwriters Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy.
Ready or Not goes down some twist-filled, Faustian child-punching roads, and it’s most certainly a good time and a great feature from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillette. It plays with lots of familiar territory and manages to present it in a fresh way that’s sure to entertain.
If that’s not enough to convince you, go ahead and do it for Samara Weaving and Adam Brody.
TAKE FOUR: EASILY ONE OF THE BEST OF 2019
By Josh Ludwick
Ready or Not is about a high stakes game of hide-and-seek played on the wedding night of Grace and Alex.
Grace has just married into the extremely wealthy Le Domas family. On the night of her wedding, she is told there is only one way to be officially accepted into the family. At midnight, she has to play a game. The game is chosen at random by drawing a card out of a box. The game can be anything from chess to checkers to backgammon to a board game. There’s only one bad card: hide-and-seek. Let us just say, the stakes are a little higher when playing that game.
Of course, the main character “Grace,” played by Samara Weaving, draws the dreaded card. And the only way to win is to survive the night — remaining hidden until dawn.
As kids, all of us played hide-and-seek at one point. The game was simple. Each person from the group would take the opportunity to be the seeker while everyone else from the group would hide. The seeker would give the other people about a 10 to 30 second head start before trying to find each of them in their hiding spots.
Ready or Not flips the old rules of hide-and-seek on its head.
In this version of the game, there are a group of seekers and one hider. They give the person hiding a 100 second head start (actually a 110 second head start, but who is keeping track) before searching for the hider. In the movie, the group puts on a creepy record titled “The Hide and Seek Song” performed by Headquarters Music. At the end of the song, the group begins looking for Grace — with weapons in hand.
Grace is put through several tests. The question comes down to how she could possibly survive the night with all the cards stacked against her — trying to hide in a house that has been in the family for generations and is familiar to all the people playing the game, except the hider.
The film can be best described as a mix of the movies You’re Next and The Babysitter.
And, no, the comparison to The Babysitter isn’t just because Samara Weaving starred in the film. But I will say, if you loved Samara’s sass in that film, then you will definitely love her in this one. Ready or Not has plenty of tense moments, but it’s mixed well with great comedy.
On of my rating system of scary pumpkins, this has to be 3.5 to 4 scary pumpkins. This was high on my must watch list for the year, and I am happy to report that it did not disappoint.
As horror fans, we are always looking for new and unique takes on the stories told in the genre, and this movie does just that by bringing something fresh to the table. It definitely put a new twist on an old classic. The ending is also worth the price of admission, so you have got to stay with it until the end.
Looking ahead to the “Best of 2019 Horror” lists, this will surely be at the top of many of them.
TAKE FIVE: SIMPLE PREMISE, NEAR FLAWLESS EXECUTION
By Jack Wilhelmi
From the brilliant minds of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who previously teamed up for a segment in the cult classic anthology V/H/S, comes a different sort of take on a popular children’s game.
Ready or Not is a self-actualized spin on many beloved horror sub genres that breathes new life into what makes family dynamics so damn terrifying. The set-up is simple enough. A newlywed couple (Mark O’Brien and Samara Weaving) have an idyllic wedding day at Alex’s (Mark O’Brien, Arrival) family estate, but his not-so-blushing bride, Grace, (Samara Weaving, The Babysitter) is about to have one nightmarish wedding night when she finds herself faced with an old family tradition: game night.
The premise is almost laughably simple, even cliché, and seems like it would be a prime set-up for a horror comedy. But the execution is a nail-biting, relentless sprint through its hour and thirty-six minute run time.
In the end, nothing is left on the table and nothing is spared in the way of blood, guts, and mayhem.
When Grace finds herself as the guest of honor at the head of the Le Domas family table for her initiation – the aforementioned “game night” – she is instructed to simply draw a card and play the game. A little background history lesson goes deeper into the tradition before Grace makes her selection. During this time, we become familiar with the roots of the tradition and why it’s so important that new family members – those who join by marriage, that is – must choose a card and play.
This entire interaction is played straight, with other by-marriage relatives chiming in to say that their games had been innocuous; children’s games like “Go Fish” and “Old Maid”. This really drives home the roots of the Le Domas clan’s steeped in old-fashioned, traditional ways. This is especially meaningful given the family dynasty was built on their board game “dominion,” as Alex cleverly points out earlier in the film.
Grace, however, isn’t as lucky as prior spouses. Her card ends up being the childhood favorite, “Hide and Seek.” The rare card being drawn sets our cast of characters into an insidious game of hunted vs. hunters, instead of their usually bland game night endeavors.
This film has a lot going for it from the get-go.
Not only is the premise a unique twist on “final girl” led slasher films like we’ve seen in recent horror titles like You’re Next, but the script is an absolute marvel. The wit and humor, along with the instantly likable (and tremendously unlikeable) characters, was penned by Ryan Murphy. Murphy also had a hand in writing and assisting with the script for Wrong Turn, which revived the “cannibal in the woods” slasher brilliantly.
Alongside Murphy on the writers’ team is Guy Busick, a contributing writer to the IFC series Stan Against Evil. This combination of brutality, highbrow comedy, and the occasional glint of lowbrow comedy is magic on the screen.
The strength of the supporting cast was magnificent.
This includes Adam Brody (Shazam, Yoga Hosers), Andie Macdowell (Groundhog Day, Sex, Lies, and Videotape), Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, The Originals), and Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible, Clear and Present Danger) as members of the Le Domas family — with so many veteran actors exposing their chops ferociously as villainous foils to Weaving’s heroine.
I particularly enjoyed the exploration of each character’s internal struggle with familial expectations vs. morality. At the end of the day, do you fall in line with the family and play the game, or do you exercise mercy for the newest clan member who might hold the key to getting estranged son Alex back into the fold?
Samara Weaving’s performance was an absolute revelation.
Horror fans have only seen a small taste of her abilities when we watched her as a babysitter who makes a pact with the Devil himself in McG’s The Babysitter and as the perfect sidekick to Stephen Yeun’s desperate office worker who is just trying to survive in Mayhem. To say she has so much more to offer an audience is a grievous understatement, because she really brings it home in Ready or Not.
Her fearless performance, her willingness to get gritty and ugly and bloody, and that scream is enough to seal her fate as one of the finest Scream Queens of the last decade. She is the heroine we deserve. And even though there are opportunities galore for other characters to steal the scenes – which they do, from time to time – Weaving is quick to snatch the audience’s attention back into her more than capable hands and lead us along a delightful journey of a game of Hide and Seek that is like no other.
Ready or Not is not rife with breakneck twists or plot points that will keep an audience guessing, but it is fresh in a way that is a gracious reprieve to horror fans like myself who occasionally feel jaded and like we’ve seen it all. The commonplace minefield of the third act plot twist we’ve grown used to in horror flicks is replaced instead with the ongoing question of “who is going to actually win this thing?” Which believe it or not, never starts to feel stale or overdone.
What Ready or Not does, it does very well.
And it stands with other greats in both the slasher and horror comedy spaces, without feeling like it leans too heavily on one or the other. There’s suspense and gore, the scares are effective without being too traumatizing, and it goes by so fast that you barely have time to catch your breath.
Get your game face on, because this mean little flick is not one to miss.
TAKE SIX: ULTIMATELY, JUST A DAMN GOOD TIME
By Mark Lilltz
Ready or Not is the new riotous, horror/black comedy from two-thirds of the directing trio, Radio Silence (V/H/S, Southbound).
It tells the outrageously simple story of a young bride who is trapped in massive mansion until dawn, literally being hunted by her new extended family.
Grace, a pitch perfect Samara Weaving, marries Alex La Domas (Mark O’Brien), an heir to the La Domas gaming fortune. When I say ‘fortune’ I mean the 1% of the 1%. Anyway, Alex doesn’t care about the fortune and seems to care less about his eccentric family. All he wants is to marry Grace and move some place far away, or something like that. It doesn’t really matter, because the chances of Grace surviving the night are pretty slim.
During the wedding, where everyone seems nervous for no reason, we get to know the La Domassholes.
There’s the patriarch Henry, played to hammy perfection by Henry Czerny (The Curse Of Buckout Road), the matriarch (welcome back, Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day), the drunk brother (Adam Brody, Jennifer’s Body), the coked-out sister (Melanie Scrofano, Wynnonna Earp) and their privileged & entitled spouses (Elyse Levesque and Kristian Bruun). There’s also the scene stealing, crazy Aunt Helene, a wonderfully over the top Nicky Guadagni.
After the wedding, the La Dumas family play a game. The rules and exposition (care of Czerny) are simple. There’s an old tradition passed down from generations that states whenever someone new joins the family, they all must play a game. A magical box containing a blank card will reveal the game once the new family member pulls the card from said box. Might be checkers, could be tiddlywinks… or in the case of Grace, it’s Hide and Seek.
What Grace doesn’t realize is that while she’s hiding, the La Dumas family must gather weapons, hunt her down and perform a sacred ritual before dawn, otherwise ‘terrible things will happen to the family.’
The rest is fun and games.
People die in spectacular, gory and hilarious fashion. There is an ongoing joke where all of the maids seem to be in the direct line of fire more often than not, resulting in some of the films more outrageous kills.
I don’t want to ruin it for you.
Suffice it to say, Ready or Not wears its outrageous theme of how the rich remain powerful on its blood-soaked sleeve.
The performances are uniformly on point, and everyone in the film seems to be having the time of their lives… except poor Grace who is being put through the ringer. One harrowing, nail-biting scene where she evades falling, thanks to a strategically placed bullet hole and rusted spike, caused this reviewer to actually cover his eyes and scream at the screen.
Ready or Not would play perfectly as an 85-minute version of The Deadliest Game meets Clue. Instead, the extra 10 minutes explore the themes of the haves vs the have-nots, toxic masculinity, and the near sociopathic nature of greed and needing to keep what we have regardless of the cost.
These themes, neither detract or elevate the movie.
Some may feel they add a depth to the carnage and black comedy. To me, it felt more like padding. By the time this movie hits its bat shit finale, we’ve all but forgotten the themes entirely.
Ready Or Not is a riot. It’s a fun, violent, ostentatious, pitch black comedy that, once it gets going, never slows or stops. This can be exhilarating or exhausting, depending on your appetite.
I, for one, enjoyed the hell out of it and would recommend this to anyone who likes their splatter gore high-minded and aristocratic.