The intersection between comedy and horror is a precious thing. Lean too far in either direction and you risk alienating either the casual date-night cinemagoer or the horror maven with a bloodlust. No self-styled comedy-horror appeases both sides and, indeed, Ready Or Not is not going to completely sate both camps – but damn, if it doesn’t get close.
Though the trailer gives away a solid 80 per cent of the film’s delights (if you’re paying attention), it’s important to know as little about Ready Or Not as possible, save for the scarcest details. Essentially, Samara Weaving’s Grace is set to marry Mark O’Brien’s Alex – the youngest son of board games magnates Becky and Tony Le Domas (played by industry veterans Andie MacDowell and Henry Czerny) – and on their wedding night, she discovers the elaborate induction his family has planned for her. Grace has to play a game of hide and seek with her in-laws to be considered a true Le Domas but the unfortunate catch is that if they find Grace before sunrise, they’ll kill her.
Ready Or Not has an absolutely justified 18 certificate, even if it’s not totally necessary. You would think that was a criticism but it’s fantastic to see a film that could be shoot so squarely mainstream, skew for a darker, more niche audience. Despite that, after its warm reception across the pond, Ready Or Not is likely to pick up a few more bob at the box office and go down as one of the year’s most unlikely surprises. This has future cult classic written all over it in blood.
As previously mentioned, the success of Ready Or Not comes from is its ability to nail its genre balancing act. That 18 rating allows for some gleefully visceral gore – one scene involving a ladder will surely induce panic attacks, it’s so stressful – and incredibly gritty, white-knuckle thrills. Grace is put through the wringer here and Weaving, in her blood-stained lace wedding gown and bandolier (such a barefaced attempt at a future bad-ass Halloween costume staple that will probably succeed), sells every minute of it. The script, penned by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy, gets bone-dry final girl witticisms in a way few horrors do; Grace sounds authentic, her wisecracks are evenly paced throughout and Weaving even dabbles in some incredibly relatable physical comedy.
Pitch-black humour is set in Ready Or Not’s bones. Because anatomising and mocking the rich is part of what it came to do, each scene has some hilarious sight gag or cue about how surprisingly inelegant and incompetent the Le Domases are. Grace narrates her own reactions and that of the audience’s, and, in toto, it makes for hysterically good entertainment. Even when it’s not delivering tack-sharp satire, Ready Or Not deploys screwball, almost Family Guy-like cutaways to the dynasty’s most inept members, all with tremendous success.
In filling out the Le Domases, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have assembled a fierce cast. Czerny and MacDowell are a great Macbethian duo: he’s all fluster and aggression while she chain-smokes and purses her lips. As the striking, intense Aunt Helene, Nicky Guadagni is a joy and subject of Ready Or Not’s greatest running jokes, while Adam Brody – as Alex’s boozy, blasé brother, Daniel – is fantastically charismatic. There are few faults in Ready Or Not and it’s telling that one of its gravest errors is not positioning Daniel as Grace’s love interest, for the pair generate almost radioactive levels of sexual tension. Perhaps it’s more fitting, then, that he is Grace’s sparring partner instead, a volatile rogue element in a carefully unspoilt elitist world.
Alluding to any film’s ending in a review that fancies itself as spoiler-free never ends well but Ready Or Not does something so incredible in its final act that it necessitates the vaguest, briefest mention. Never has a comedy-horror so neatly and perfectly married its irreverent streak with the blood-and-guts side of things than here. What the directors and writers do is nothing short of inspired, so ambitious and absurd that it’s difficult to see how any member of the audience could do anything but tip their hat in deference.
If you really picked apart Ready Or Not, not every little thing works – there are some pacing issues leading up to the finale and a few too many characters for a clean 95-minute thriller – but none of that really hinders your enjoyment. Ready Or Not manages to successfully cram in incisive social commentary, deliciously gory thrills and terrific gags, and that is a triumph all on its own. More like this, please.
Ready Or Not is in UK cinemas now.