This year has been a successful year for horror. Films like “Us” and “Midsommar” have captivated audiences with deep symbolism while “Crawl” and “Child’s Play” delivered entertaining scares and still offered substantial plots. “Ready or Not” falls into the latter category, with a fantastic lead, a strong sense of atmosphere and an entertaining concept exploited as much as possible.
“Ready or Not” stars Samara Weaving as a young woman named Grace who is about to marry Alex Le Domas: the love of her life, played by Mark O’Brien. After getting married, Grace has to engage in the family tradition of playing a random game because her wealthy in-laws are the heads of a board game dynasty.When she draws a card declaring that the family and her must play hide-and-seek, the game turns deadly as her new family tries to kill her in a large mansion in the middle of the night.
Grace is a fantastic protagonist thanks to her tough persona and Weaving’s strong performance. The entire script is bent on putting her through so much pain with Grace constantly moving when most would just give up and die. Seeing this woman killing her relatives in a wedding dress with antique weapons is an awesome sight. She also acknowledges how insane this idea is by screaming profanities left and right. This emphasizes the comedic aspect of the dark comedy genre and relieves the tension that the film creates.
The rest of the cast brings a level of fun to the film as this homicidal family. The entire cast makes the most destructive of family dinners look mild by comparison. Particular standouts include Daniel, played by Adam Brody, who is sympathetic toward Grace and is less enthusiastic about trying to kill her, the cocaine snorting, drug addicted Emilie, played by Melanie Scrofano, and Helene, played by Nicky Guadagni, who looks and acts like a stereotypical old crone.
Production wise, “Ready or Not” looks fantastic with a gorgeous family mansion as the main setting of the film. The lighting is perfect by being dim enough to invoke suspense but not so dark as to obscure the audience’s perception of what’s occurring.
However, the film over-relies on handheld shots which create the “shaky cam” look. During chase sequences it’s fine as the handheld shots create a sense of chaos. But during slower sequences, steady-cam or a dolly could have been used. When handheld shots are used too often, it could make the viewer become dizzy.
The script also suffers from narrative problems with certain character motivations changing at the drop of a hat. It is established that the family made a deal which would involve them killing a new family member but is somewhat unclear as to what the deal was. Thankfully, the main character distracts from that by receiving the audience’s sense of empathy as she tries to survive the night.
“Ready or Not” is a perfect summer horror film to end the summer season at the cinema. It ranges from funny one moment to horrifying the next and is a film guaranteed to entertain.