Hidden Gem: Ready or Not

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2019 was certainly a year full of excellent films destined to be classics: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story and Little Womento name just a few. In a year of such high-quality standalones, it is unfortunate that Ready or Not is not receiving the love that it deserves.

The movie centres around Grace, a woman who has always wanted a family of her own. What a shame she marries into the Le Domases, arguably the most evil, privileged family in recent horror cinema! She happens to choose the one life-or-death card in the family’s ritualistic board game – played every time a new member joins the circle – sparking the movie’s thrilling cat-and-mouse chase. While this satisfying female revenge fantasy can be compared to the Kill Bill films, with Grace forced into violent independence overnight, Ready or Not expertly weaves in hilarious moments of comedy without burdening its action-packed stakes. Gore is most definitely a core element of Ready or Not, yet is unexpectedly used for both laughs and groans from the audience as they digest Grace’s horrific and bizarre ordeal.

Made under the production banner of filmmaking trio Radio Silence, Ready or Not skilfully uses its low budget to depict the Le Domases as the worst imaginable case of elitism, their Shining-esque estate almost seeming to gain a life of its own as Grace realises the gravity of her situation. The disturbing nature of the Le Domases’ privilege is beautifully expressed through excessive animal heads mounted on the walls and intimidating hunting gear ornamenting the dreaded Games Room. These visuals prove integral to the deeper problems hiding underneath the movie’s ostensibly simple plot: how far can we stay loyal to our families and heritage? The alarming number of candles as part of an intentionally garish set design successfully reinforces the cult-like nature of the family and foreshadows a deeper malevolence behind their traditions.

It goes without saying that Samara Weaving excels as Grace; Weaving’s range, from absolute terror to uncontrollable rage, dodges any signs of the tired ‘damsel in distress’ trope. With a short run time, it may have been beneficial for Ready or Not to delve further into the psyche of the family members. Certain character shifts provide an effective shock tactic but feel a tad sudden given their drastically different set-ups. However, this does not negate the cast’s incredibly entertaining and unique comedic traits – from a husband-in-law constantly unsatisfied with his allocated weapon to his coked-up wife, who responds to her anxiety of not completing the ritual by shooting absolutely anything that moves. This play between exaggerated acting and more nerve-wracking moments, with Grace navigating dark hallways and a series of adversities, provides the basis for what is an incredibly entertaining black comedy as well as thriller.

Despite some slight frustration at undeveloped strands, Ready or Not is a complete thrill ride from beginning to end. Jam-packed with laughs, gore and nail-biting sequences, this film is most certainly worth the watch. 

Ready or Not (2019), directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, was distributed in the UK by 20th Century Fox, certificate 18. Watch the trailer below:

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