We all have weird family traditions, right? Some of us throw celebrations for odd events/milestones, some of us celebrate in unusual ways (which can get a bit overwhelming to some people) and some of us pass a plastic red parrot along to anyone unfortunate enough to join the family (that tradition is unique to my family… I hope)
If you’re the Le Domas family from the film Ready or Not, your weird tradition involves attempting to violently murder anyone who joins your household on their wedding night.
Now, that sounds strange and a bit random, but there is a reason for the game: the Le Domas family owe their wealth and good fortune to games (board games and card games, mainly) and so having the new bride or groom play a “game” to earn their spot at the table seems fitting.
This is how we start our film, by meeting a young woman named Grace on her wedding night to a wealthy man named Daniel Le Domas at his family’s large estate home.
(If you are curious, thanks to Scrackmote, you can read the script HERE)
This is neither here nor there, but I could have sworn that our protagonist, Grace, was played by Margot Robbie – I mean, just watch the above trailer and tell me that doesn’t look like Harley Quinn.
Anyway, 3-Way clarified that Grace is actually played by Samara Weaving – a wonderful actress herself who has been in lots of things like The Babysitter, Mayhem and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
As I said, neither here nor there, but I thought I would mention it, as it took me by surprise after seeing Miss Robbie recently in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood.
Now, back to the film!
After Grace gets married to Alex, she is told that, as per her new family’s tradition, she has to play a game that evening as a sort of initiation into their clan. Reluctantly, she chooses Hide and Seek from a mysterious box that the family attributes their good fortune to (Hide and Seek might have been a better title for the film, but there are already several films with that title, including a pretty awful Robert DeNiro one) and is told that she must remain hidden until dawn in order to win.
Of course, we know that it is not your typical game of Hide and Seek (unless you’ve been playing a really extreme version of this, in which case your birthdays must have been nuts) and the Le Domas family is, in fact, trying to kill Grace before the sun rises because… well, you’ll just have to see the film to find out why.
I’m not going to say too much more about the plot, as the trailer (above) lets you in on the type of movie this is and I don’t want to spoil any of the twists or surprises for anyone who wants to see this.
What I do want to talk about is the genre and tone of this film.
You see, it is a risky proposition: a wide-release horror/comedy. I have talked in length about horror/comedies and why that is such a tricky tightrope to walk, but I will say it again: both horror and comedy are extremely subjective genres, and when you mash them together you need to hit a very delicate balance in order to pull it off.
When done well, such as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a horror/comedy can become a much-loved cult classic. However, for every Tucker and Dale, we typically get a large number of messy imitators that (usually) are admirable in their attempts to capture that same magic, but just don’t manage to find their footing.
Not just that, but this is a wide release (and coming hot on the heels of The Hunt cancellation controversy due to violence, which I will not get into too much here other than to echo the words of Scott Mendleson from Forbes who said “I’m not mad, but I’m very, very disappointed.”) which is something you don’t usually see from Horror/Comedies unless you have Joss Whedon involved coming right off his Avengers success and a bit before his “#MeToo” fall. I am, of course, talking about The Cabin in the Woods, which, even today, I don’t fully understand the love for. It’s fine, but I don’t think it’s worthy of the 91% Freshrating it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes.
But I digress.
So, after all this discussion on horror/comedies, how did I think Ready or Not held up in terms of entertainment. laughs and scares?
As you can no doubt tell from the trailer, Amazing Grace turns out to be, well, Amazing at Hide and Seek, much to the family’s chagrin. This leads to some fun action and reveals/reversals, but is not as over-the-top as You’re Next (where the killers accidentally take on a young woman who was raised on a survivalist compound – which I am actually glad the filmmakers avoided here, as Grace is an orphan and I was worried that her much-mentioned foster family was responsible for her survival skills) and provides lots of laughs as neither our “killers” (the family) or our heroine (the bride) are particularly qualified to be engaging in the life-or-death game that they are playing.
I also liked how the whole thing was contained with a limited cast – it works for the plot and kept everything racing forward to the explosive (literally, but you’ll get that joke when you see the film) conclusion.
In addition to that, there are some very fun reversals and surprises in terms of the story. For example, the whole “suit up for action” scene that Grace has in the above trailer doesn’t play the way that you would expect and had me chuckling.
There is also a loose nail that sticking out from a landing (Evoking the effectiveness of the A Quiet Place scene) that you know is going to stab/impale someone or something, but there is a bit of reversal on what/who gets stabbed by it which is fun, but it still made me cringe.
Another thing that I wanted to make note of is that the film is a tight 95 minutes, so there is very little downtime and no slow moments, which works to the film’s (and the genre’s) advantage.
The only thing that I have to take a bit of issue with is towards the end there are a few moments when things happen (like someone forgetting to pick up a dropped gun or not finishing a knocked-out enemy who will likely – and does – return just moments later for round two) that seemingly only happened so that the plot could continue or at least continue in the way that the filmmakers/writers wanted it to.
This is a very minor complaint, but in order to give my full and honest review of the film, I had to mention it.
The characters are something I don’t usually talk about in reviews for horror films because (unfortunately) many times there are few who are well-defined enough that the audience can root for.
That is not the case here, as we get very well-defined and unique standout characters, such as:
Grace – Our heroine who marries into the wrong family where her survival skills are put to the test along with her new marriage and very sanity.
I have to highly praise Samara Weaving, as she carries the film and is a great leading lady. She is badass when she has to be and likable as well, which is a great combination and one that the story would live or die on. Thankfully, the casting was spot-on.
Another thing that I really liked about the character of Grace was that I found myself really invested in her character and rooting for her to survive. I bring this up because I have seen several horror films recently where the lead was a cardboard cutout and I did not care about him/her at all. This is a testament to the writing and the acting here, as I was on the edge of my seat and pulling for Grace to make it through the night.
Alex Le Domas – Grace’s husband and a runaway from the Le Domas family, Alex is an interesting character: he doesn’t approve of what his family does, maybe he even hates them for their rigid devotion to violent traditions, but the Le Domas clan is his family and Alex struggles throughout the film to decide who he is and what he is going to fight for: his bride or his family?
Daniel Le Domas – By far my favorite character and one of the most three-dimensional characters I’ve seen in a horror film recently, Daniel is the black sheep of the family. He doesn’t agree with their ritual, but has gone along with it all of his life… except for the time he saved Alex from a cruel death when they were both little boys (this is shown in the opening scene, so I don’t consider it a spoiler)
Daniel has been forced into a marriage with a woman who is clearly only after his money, but who was cunning enough to survive her own game and join the family.
Despite his misgivings, Daniel reluctantly starts the ritual, but begins to have second thoughts as the night goes on and makes some surprising decisions which risk his marriage, his family and his very soul.
Becky Le Domas – The matriarch of the family, all Becky really wants is for Alex to come home and be a part of the family again, and she sees Grace as a way to help make that happen. Unfortunately for Grace, that won’t stop Becky from trying to kill Grace before dawn using any means necessary.
Tony Le Domas – The patriarch of the family who insists on tradition above all things, everyone is as terrified of him as they are determined to earn his respect. However, he does have his own dark secrets and holds the key to the true reason that the Le Domas family must play a deadly game with each new addition to the family.
Emilie – A clumsy coke-head and daddy’s favorite, Emilie has a bad habit of accidentally killing the maids instead of killing Grace.
Charity Le Domas – Daniel’s wife, Charity married into wealth and is determined to keep her status at all costs. We get hints at the hard life that Charity had in poverty before she met Daniel and why remaining in the family’s good graces is so important to her.
Fitch Bradley – A “bro” who married into the family, Fitch is pretty useless, but also gets some of the biggest laughs in the film because of how inept and unaware he is.
Aunt Helene – The crowd favorite, Aunt Helene is an old battleaxe (who carries a literal battleaxe as she hunts Grace) who insists that the game be played and Grace be killed before dawn, or else…
It is not often that I get to say this in my reviews, but the comedy here worked flawlessly. And, because comedy is subjective, I am going by not just my own opinion and reaction, but that of my fellow movie-goers who were all roaring with laughter at the appropriate times.
Likely, this will not be true for everyone, as Ready or Not is darkly comic and involves violence and gallows humor, but if you know what you are getting into and enjoy those types of laughs, then this is the film for you.
I may even go as far to say that it is one of the most enjoyable horror/comedies that I have ever seen. That is not it lessen the effectiveness of any other horror/comedies that I have listed previously and/or enjoyed in the past, but this film knew exactly what it was, kept my attention and enthusiasm throughout, had me laughing out loud and delivered on the blood and gore. You can’t do much better than that.
As many of you know, I am not a fan of jumpscares… at all. I won’t go into my particular aversion to this horror film tactic, but what I will say is that there are almost no “jump” moments and the few that are included are used effectively. Here, at least, the scares serve the plot (since it is a young woman trying to stay hidden from her murderous in-laws until dawn) and the tension rises as the end of the game draws closer and closer.
In addition to that, the violence is not something they skim on either – people are shot, stabbed, hit with arrows, run over, burned, crushed and so on, but it also never really feels gratuitous… until the third act, which is a different story. Speaking of —
There is a lot of blood and a few over-the-top deaths which are purposely so exaggerated that they become (intentionally) funny. The third act had my audience yelling, laughing and cheering, which is exactly the reaction that I think the filmmakers wanted to evoke.
With that said, this film is probably not for the faint of heart, or the horror-adverse, but it is an R-rated horror, so know what you are getting into when you enter the theater.
SEE IT NOW!!!
Seriously, this is a fantastic horror/comedy that you can enjoy no matter if you are a horror fan, a fan of horror/comedies or just someone looking for a fun film to check out this weekend. I loved it and laughed out loud while, at the same time, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next and if Grace would survive the night.
Also, this is a Fox Searchlight film and an original IP that we should all support so that unique, crazy films and ideas like this still get the green-light in Hollywood and have their chance to shine.
What are you doing still reading this review? Go out and see Ready or Not right now!
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