By Kevin Hoskinson
When it comes to horror films, there isn’t a foolproof formula for making them work. Often, the next big thing in the genre isn’t always the best. But ‘Ready or Not’ should be the next big thing, because it is one of the best things released this year.
The movie stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a soon to be bride who couldn’t be happier to be marrying Alex, the man of her dreams. Alex is a member of the wealthy Le Domas family, who gained their fortune selling games (akin to companies like Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers). Like a lot of families, they are big on tradition, and they have an interesting one when someone marries into the family. The night of the wedding, the soon to be Le Domas pick a card, and whatever card they choose, they must play that game. It is Grace’s luck that she draws the rarest card in the deck, the Hide and Seek card.
What starts as a simple game of hide and seek quickly turns into a nightmare as the Le Domas family add a unique twist. The rules are simple: Grace must hide, and if she can stay hidden until dawn, she wins. But if she is found, she dies.
And this is how the madness begins.
For a film about playing games, Ready or Not doesn’t play by the rules. It’s a horror film, one that is thrilling and extremely bloody. But, it’s also subversively funny. Most of the thrills and blood are played for laughs, but not in the way that you would expect. A lot of the laughs come from being uncomfortable in the situation that is being presented, much in the way that Grace feels. I found myself laughing at the worst things, but I felt ok because I wasn’t the only one in the theater doing it. Even though she is fighting for her life throughout, even Grace sees the ridiculousness in the whole ordeal. And that is one of the great things about this film. It knows its premise is a bit out there, but it goes with it. It plays it straight and with a great subtlety about it when it needs to.
The whole cast is incredible to watch, but Samara Weaving is the real star of the movie. Watching her try to come to terms with everything going on and finding ways to get out of this alive was the highlight of it all. She has a real vulnerability about her, but she’s also very tough and is never the “damsel in distress.” While watching, you always know that she is going to be better than those hunting her in every way. My other favorite performance came from Adam Brody, who is such an incredible talent and is excellent in everything he does. He plays Alex’s brother, one who doesn’t want in on the game but has no choice. There is a great duality to his performance, and I was indeed on board with everything he did. The rest of the cast includes Andie MacDowell, Mark O’Brien, and Henry Czerny, and they are all terrific.
The film is wonderfully directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, working off a screenplay by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy. The mansion that the deadly game is played in is beautifully shot and seems like something out of a completely different movie, which is one of the things that makes the film tick. It’s not a setting you would expect a film like this to take place in, and it works surprisingly well.
From the start, Ready or Not kicks things off on a tense note and doesn’t let up for very long. There are short stretches where everything seems fine, but you know it isn’t. It’s a film that plays with themes of duality throughout, and one where things, and people can change without notice. It’s a bloody fun time at the movies and one that I can not recommend enough.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Kevin Hoskinson is a writer with a deep-seeded love for movies, comic books, television and the paranormal. From humble beginnings working the box office at his local movie theater, he’s worked his way to becoming a humble family man and professional bug exterminator. Growing up, he wanted to become an astronaut, a Ghostbuster, a dinosaur, and a Disney animator before he found his passion for writing as a teen. He studied film at Los Angeles Valley College with an emphasis on screenwriting and film criticism. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter @Kevin_Hoskinson, and Instagram @kevinhoskinson.