Movie Review: ‘Ready or Not’

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“Ready Or Not” follows a young woman named Grace (Samara Weaving). After leading a life of familial nonexistence, Grace finally has a chance to achieve a sense of familial fulfillment. One sunny day, Grace marries Alex, who hails from the wealthy Le Domas family. While at the Le Domas estate, Grace participates in a family tradition where she must play a game in order to be accepted as a true Le Domas. She draws a card that reads “hide and seek.” In reality, the Le Domas family believes that in order to keep their lives/profits, they must sacrifice a bride. Grace, unaware of the family’s deadly intentions, picks a hiding spot and from there, the hunt begins. 

Historically, the best horror flicks have majestic visuals. These tales throw us into beautifully crafted worlds, complete with accurate imagery and photographic enticement. “Ready Or Not” is not any different. Brett Jutkiewicz, the cinematographer, has really outdone himself. With the help of Andrew M. Stearn (the production designer), Jutkiewicz’ photography perfectly parallels the detailed materialism of upper class living. Every facet of the house looks pristine. Simply put, the Le Domas mansion is cinematic eye candy. 

Obviously, style only can take a film so far. Characters are cinematic straws designed to hook audience members. They stir the film, making it a form of legitimate entertainment. Fortunately, “Ready Or Not” has a phenomenal cast, brimming with freshness. The screenplay, written by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy, constructs an array of colorful characters who bring their own forms of energy into the narrative. 

Samara Weaving turns in an astonishing performance. With her smile, sense of humor, and nervousness, Weaving creates an accurate depiction of a woman battling layers of hardship. Simply put, this is female representation done right. In a wise turn of events, the script doesn’t try to overexplain Grace’s life. Instead, it gives us valuable bits of information, which stems from her broken past. Once the game of hide and seek begins, we witness the birth of an exceptional heroine, representing the will to survive unpropitious circumstances. Everyone loves a good underdog story.

The directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, don’t cheat. Certain films would try to turn Grace into an adaptable superhuman, capable of disposing assailants with the snap of a finger. Here, the character of Grace is treated in a different way. The script understands that someone with limited fighting experience would mess up under pressure. To coincide with these imperfections, the film focuses on Grace’s fearful essence. With that being said, Grace’s petrified nature humanizes her.

Like the best horror flicks, “Ready Or Not” reminds us that a normal person wouldn’t be an expert at surviving a bloodbath. As humans, we mess up under pressure. We do the stupidest of things when pressure is knocking at our doors. So when we see an imperfect yet formidable character like Grace onscreen, we feel a sense of relatability. Therefore, as time progresses, Grace’s resolve becomes a source of inspiration. Fear doesn’t make her a damsel in distress. Instead, her fear fuels her need to survive. Often times, the best characters teach us something about life, and in this case, Grace teaches us to push through our circumstances and flaws. First, we accept our current dilemma. Then, we fight for a better future.

The De Lomas family may be the antagonists, but in many ways, they are comedic linchpins. They stumble through the plot, completely unaware of how to accomplish their mission. Whenever they feel a sense of accomplishment, the film brings them to their knees. But at the same time, we never doubt their resources. The concept of being outnumbered always remains within our minds.

Instead of being a film that tests your stomach, “Ready Or Not” embraces its adventurous elements. Ironically enough, the film taps into the excitement of hide and seek. It’s a gripping experience, full of ongoing developments. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett craft a tense journey, consisting of sudden left and right turns. They put us in tight places, with a clear sense of expansive atmospherics.

Like “The Burbs,” “Fright Night,” and “Shaun of the Dead,” “Ready Or Not” takes a horrific situation and has a bloody good time. The film melds horror and comedy, creating a cinematic hybrid that flows like running water. When necessary, the suspense always manages to sustain itself. At times, we can predict the outcome of suspenseful events. However, these predictive elements aren’t negatives. Every character manages to become a beacon of enchantment, and in turn, every echo of suspense is magnetically attractive. We are eager to see these characters interact.

“Ready Or Not” expertly plants seeds of ambiguity. Many characters are established as being internally broken. Yes, they have deadly intentions, but the film wisely focuses on their guilt. Thus, the film’s atmosphere consists of great unpredictability. We begin to ask ourselves many questions. Who will help? Who can we trust? Is there anyone we can trust?

One of the big standouts is Adam Brody, who plays Daniel De Lomas. To put it simply, the character of Daniel is a contradiction in the best way possible. He aligns himself with both sides (the family and Grace), and as time goes on, he double crosses both parties. His true nature isn’t actually revealed until the latter parts of the film. Kudos must be given to Brody for tapping into the character’s complexities.

Part of this film’s beauty is the familial mythology. When the film leaves Grace, it focuses on the De Lomas family. Basically, these sequences are breaks from the tense proceedings. In lesser films, these scenes would stick out like a sore thumb. But here, the scenes are unbeliavably compelling, because so much thought has been put into the family’s mythology. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett understand that often times, the best forms of mythology are connected to ambiguity. As a whole, the film does a great job of slowly revealing information. The information that we receive furthers the story, while also setting up hints that will be paid off later on.

Is the family curse real? Or is the family delusional? Well, for most of the film, we are unsure if the family’s supernatural mythology is the stuff of reality. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett keep us pinned to our seats until the very end. They force us to think about different options. And even when we think the mystery has been solved, they subvert our expectations. The end result is a film that becomes more satisfying than we could have possibly imagined.

I highly recommend “Ready Or Not.” As of this writing, it’s my favorite movie of this year. Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to seek out this flick. Please, do not let it go under the radar. On a consistent basis, we receive solid horror flicks. But how often do we receive films that go above and beyond? The answer is simple: Not that often. “Ready Or Not” is a rare movie that comes around every so often. And that, my friends, is cause for celebration.

My Grade:  A+

Dillon McCarty can be contacted at [email protected]

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