Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are To See ‘Ready or Not’

by Jonah Desneux on August 23, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Ready or Not will hopefully kickstart the screwball suspense genre we so desperately deserve. In an age where reboots and franchises dominate the box office every week, it is refreshing for an original film to shine so brightly for critics and casual audiences alike. Ready or Not is frightening and funny. It’s political, but not polarizing. It’s a plot so simple, yet so satisfying. It’s as if the Three Stooges got an R-Rating and tried to bludgeon each other with rusty hammers. The best part of it all is it provides hope the absurd still has a place in the mainstream.

The plot of Ready or Not is reflective of what a postmodern Hitchcock film might be. It takes a premise easily relatable to all audiences and twists it to horrifying extremes. The events take place on the wedding night of Grace, played remarkably by Samara Weaving. Instead of an exciting night of romance, like most brides desire, Grace must play a game in the mansion of her groom’s wealthy and disapproving family. The Le Domas family made their fortune as board game tycoons, so it is tradition for all new members to be initiated through a game of their own. Hide-and-Seek is chosen for Grace’s celebration and soon the darkest of family secrets is revealed.

Ready or Not is simplistic in its formula, but thrives in the excess surrounding it. Guy Busick and Ryan Murphys script is a late-night hypothetical come to life: “What if you’re playing hide-and-seek, but the seekers are trying to kill you?” Under the direction of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet what is inherently silly is allowed to flourish in its bizarre self-awareness. 

One of the biggest pitfalls of horror films is taking themselves too seriously. The very nature of horror is absurd and when a proper balance of self-awareness and genuine tension is missed, audiences mock cliches instead of loving what makes them so great. Scary movie after scary movie falls victim to its own monsters through an unbreakable serious tone about something outlandish at its core. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet avoid this trap by maintaining a consistently farcical tone throughout. Even the film’s most dramatic moments are underscored with a quip to keep the enjoyably ridiculous feeling afloat. 

Much like an actual board game, the film’s plot establishes an emphasis on rules. The rules of the film itself are intertwined with the rules of the game bluntly explained to Grace in  an opening scene. This not only clarifies the game in the diegesis, but also cleverly lets the audience knows what is in store for them. There is no room for confusion by how blatantly the plot of the film is laid out in this scene. What could have been a lazy storytelling device is once again saved by the film’s self-awareness and commitment to simplicity.

What Ready or Not lacks in twist-and-turns is compensated by its grand mystery. Contemplated by the characters throughout the film, this mystery establishes an intrigue other than Grace’s survival.. At one point a character even googles it on his phone, hoping for a definitive answer. I was personally left pondering the outcome of what it might be and the payoff did not leave me disappointed. This film’s ending has “cult classic” written all over it.

The straight-forward plot is strengthened by eccentric characters. Grace transforms into a grizzled badass while fighting for her life, becoming a strong candidate for “Heroine of the Year” the moment she rips off the bottom of her wedding dress, replaces her heels with Converse, and brandishes a big ol’ gun. In what is sure to be an iconic role in Samara Weaving’s career, the actress brilliantly commits to the sympathetic action hero

Opposite of Grace is the Le Domas family, who possess the energy of an over-the-top evil cartoon family. As a collective unit, the family represents the symbolic nature of the wealthy doing whatever it takes to stay rich without any moral repercussions; yet as individuals their specific motivations give weight to their sinister actions. Overall, the film take a class battle to its extreme. The rich hunt the poor simply because they believe it’s what they are supposed to do. It is what their family did before them, so cruelty is shown to be passed on like a genetic disease. 

Ready or Not has the same look and feel as a film student’s senior project. There is noble ambition in the different stylized shots, but it lacks a professional quality found in most films. The long pan and tracking shot in the opening credits is notably awkward. There are hints of great ideas found in some shots, but they are rarely impressive. This is especially disappointing given the film’s lavish costumes and scenic design.

With last summer’s Tag and the current release of Ready or Not, we are one kickball movie away from a full-blown playground game cinematic universe trend, with Ready or Not sitting atop the jungle gym as king of the schoolyard. Ready or Not never shies away from its absurdity and that’s what makes it so great. It’s a must-see in a crowd setting because it doesn’t ask you keep your comments to yourself. Like a roller coaster, with this film it’s best not to question it, but just throw your hands in the air with a bunch of strangers and enjoy the ride.

Jonah Desneux

Jonah Desneux is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri with a BA in Film Studies. It’s baffling that someone who just spent four years writing film paper after film paper would immediately want to write some more, but hey, he must love it! Along with writing about film Jonah enjoys writing and performing sketch comedy in Columbia and Kansas City.

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