Ready or Not follows a young woman named Grace (Samara Weaving). As her marriage inches closer and closer, Grace sees a life suitable for familial fulfillment. She marries her man: Alex, a member of the rich Le Domas family. On her wedding night, Grace becomes part of a family tradition. She has to play hide and seek (games are an integral part of the Le Domas’ family fortune). Grace sees the game as being a form of playful camaraderie. But in reality, the Le Domas family believes that in order to keep their lives/profits, they must sacrifice a bride. Grace, completely unaware of the family’s deadly intentions, chooses a hiding spot and from there, the game begins.
Horror fans will hoot and holler at this flick. Like The Burbs (1989), Fright Night (1985), and Shaun of the Dead (2004), Ready or Not takes a terrifying situation and has a fun time with horror components. The film melds horror and comedy, creating a cinematic hybrid that flows like running water. Instead of being a film that embraces gut-wrenching sensibilities, it perfectly taps into the energetic nature of hide and seek. On a recurring basis, there are sudden left and right turns, designed to keep audience members on their toes.
As a whole, Ready or Not is an economic adventure. It’s constantly moving, and in retrospect, there isn’t any unnecessary baggage. Due to its fast pace, the limited atmosphere feels bigger than it actually is. As viewers, we are put in tight places, but there is always a sense of domestic beauty due to the production design. With the help of Andrew M. Stearn (the production designer), Brett Jutkiewicz’ cinematography perfectly parallels the detailed materialism of upper class living. In turn, the limited atmosphere becomes a visual treat. We are stunned by every single part of the mansion, because every nook and cranny is monumentally pristine.
Obviously, every good film must posses characters that connect with us. After all, characters are cinematic engines. They bring stories to life and eventually help films reach their destination. Characters hook audience members, allowing a narrative to achieve a sense of personal intrigue. Thankfully, 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.
In that same respect, villains are typically vital to a film’s success. They set the stakes, and push the heroic figures to the limit. In this specific case, the Le Domas family is unbelievably entertaining. In many ways, they are comedic linchpins filled with slapstick sensibilities. They stumble through the narrative, completely unaware of how to accomplish their goals. Whenever they succeed, the film brings them to their knees. Every instance of success is short-lived, but make no mistake about it: They are formidable villains. The concept of being outnumbered always remains within our minds. At times, we can predict the outcome of suspenseful events. However, these predictive elements aren’t flaws. Every character manages to become a beacon of delight, and in turn, every inch of suspense is magnetically attractive. We are eager to see these characters interact.
To coincide with the compelling characters, Ready or Not takes pride in its ability to be surprising. Throughout the film, many seeds of ambiguity are planted. Familial characters are established as being internally shattered. Clearly, 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 Le Domas, a contradiction in the best way possible. He aligns himself with both sides (the family and Grace), and on a consistent basis, he betrays 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.
The mythology surrounding the Le Domas family is devilishly intriguing. The story slowly reveals information regarding the Le Domas’ familial connections. The information progresses the narrative, while also setting up elements that will be paid off later on. But at the same time, the story never reveals too much information. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (the directors) understand that often times, the best forms of mythology are connected to ambiguity. As a whole, the family’s mythology becomes a macabre-like mystery, brimming with richness and supernatural debate. As answers begin to form, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett subvert our expectations, making the film more gratifying than we could have possibly imagined.
From a socially diverse perspective, Ready or Not doesn’t swing for the fences, but that’s partially the point. The film is showcasing the ways in which Caucasian people have asserted their will amongst the masses. The entire cast is Caucasian, but if we break down the cast, we will find a fundamental focus towards female distinctiveness. Every single female character earns our affection, and consequently, we appreciate their appearances onscreen. Out of the 10 primary cast members, there are five female characters. There is Becky (Andy MacDowell), a caring mother, filled with politeness, capability, and acceptance. There is Helene (Nicky Guadagni), an elder who shows little emotion, but in terms of family tradition, she’s a humanistic demon, consisting of passion and excitement. Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), a younger member, is a vessel of consistent humor, quirkiness and unlucky tendencies. Lastly, there is Charity (Elyse Levesque), an uppity member of upper class society, who sold her soul long ago.
Samara Weaving turns in a magnificent performance. With her smile, sense of humor, and nervousness, Weaving creates an accurate depiction of a female battling layers of hardship. Simply put, this is female representation done right. The script doesn’t try to over-explain Grace’s life. Instead, it gives us valuable bits of information, which stem 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.
Certain films would try to turn Grace into an adaptable superwoman, capable of disposing opponents with the blink of an eye. Thankfully, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett understand that someone with limited fighting experience would mess up under pressure. I was most impressed with how the film deals with fear, an imperfect aspect of humanity. The flick takes great pride in showcasing the deep-seated fear that resides within Grace. In many ways, Grace’s fearful essence is at the forefront of the film. Therefore, we are able to latch onto Grace, because she has similar imperfections that parallel our own.
In our current political/social climate, the character of Grace is a ray of inspiration. She’s not a damsel in distress. She’s a strong, capable female, destined to make an impression on modern viewers. Grace’s fear fuels her need to survive. Her existence onscreen tells women that fear doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. And if you use fear the right way, it can make you stronger. Through acceptance, you will become a stronger version of yourself, able to destroy the social obstacles that come your way.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Ready or Not. It’s a powerful piece of genre filmmaking, filled with female inclusiveness and versatility. Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to seek out this flick. Please, do not let it go under the radar. It deserves our support.
Originally published by Dillon McCarty for Incluvie on September 5, 2019.