Film Review: Ready or Not
Ready or Not is Predictable Fun Elevated By a Breakout Samara Weaving
A violent romp of class warfare, Ready or Not is a fun - if predictable - exercise in survival horror. Neither very insightful nor clever, the film is bolstered by a single silver lining: the undeniable charm of Samara Weaving. The Australian actress is far and away the best part of the movie, carrying its light narrative with her considerable charisma. And while Ready or Not may not be particularly deep, its B-movie thrills and kills are sure to guarantee at least a passably good time.
As far as dissections of the gap between rich and poor go, films about humans hunting humans have never been much more than skin deep. The Most Dangerous Game, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games. These are all films that boil class warfare down to - in Ready or Not’s cynical parlance - “Fucking rich people, am I right?” Ready or Not, directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, wears its 1%-skewering agenda on its sleeve, but is neither that deep nor groundbreaking; instead, the film coasts by with schlocky violence, biting humor, and a dash of occult horror. It’s a B-movie through and through, and that’s totally fine because it has one special ace up its sleeve: Samara Weaving. I’ve been an admirer of Weaving ever since her turns in other genre fare such as Mayhem and The Babysitter, and her magnetism is on full display in Ready or Not. Playing against convention as the anti-“final girl,” Weaving’s Grace is a snorting, sarcastic, chain-smoking pottymouth, who just also happens to be a consummate badass.
After a violently suspenseful cold open, Ready or Not begins with some pending nuptials as Grace is about to marry Alex Le Domas, prodigal heir to the Le Domas board game empire. “Dominion. We prefer dominion,” he cheekily corrects her. Growing up an orphan, Grace is jittery and anxious to be accepted into her new family, which primarily consists of a gaggle of old-money aristocrats. There’s patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny, hamming it up), his wife Becky (Andie MacDowell), Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody, in the film’s most nuanced role), Alex’s druggie sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), and bitter Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). After the wedding, Grace is corralled into a Le Domas powwow; longstanding tradition dictates that - in honor of the family’s mysterious benefactor Mr. Le Bail - the newest member of the family must play a game chosen from a deck of cards. All of the cards are mostly harmless parlor games, but Grace has the misfortune of choosing Hide & Seek, the one game that’s played to deadly extremes. None the wiser, Grace takes her leave to find a hiding place, while the remaining Le Domas clansmen arm themselves with blades, guns, and crossbows. “So, there’s no way for me to win, right?” Grace quizzically asks. Tony shrugs, “I mean, stay hidden ‘til dawn?”
“…And while Ready or Not may not be particularly deep, its B-movie thrills and kills are sure to guarantee at least a passably good time.”
On a surface level, and not much deeper, Ready or Not works as a skewering of one-percenters desperately clinging to their wealth. In a blackly comic turn, the Le Domases turn out to be a group of rich and ineffectual chuds, and not a single member of the family knows the particulars of why they’re playing this violent game - Tony is hazy on whether using surveillance cameras is cheating, Daniel is rather conflicted about the entire ordeal (in the film’s other standout performance), and Emilie does bumps of cocaine while her husband looks up YouTube tutorials on crossbow functionality. Alex is the most reluctant of all, actively helping Grace while still professing his love for her. Ready or Not gets decent entertainment mileage out of the villains’ whitebread ineptitude, but never is the narrative more alive than when Grace is onscreen. Throughout the film’s inoffensive gore and predictable jump-scares, Samara Weaving’s charismatic presence is the only thing elevating Ready or Not above forgettable B-cinema. An immediately likable action heroine, Weaving’s expressive face and impressive physicality do wonders in carrying the film. Another bright spot in Ready or Not is its visuals; although the story primarily takes place at night, cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz does a great job making sure everything is well-lit and composed, cranking up the contrast and saturation as an admirable imitation of film.
As a horror thriller film, Ready or Not is fairly unremarkable, but as an action vehicle for Samara Weaving, it’s entertaining popcorn fare. With a reductive message that isn’t particularly insightful or surprising, the film gets by as a disposable, end-of-summer fascination. In the end, it most likely won’t enter the cult classic pantheon it’s striving for, even with its bloody and bugnuts ending, but if the likes of Mayhem or the The Babysitter didn’t put Weaving on the map, Ready or Not certainly will.