"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

Ready or Not

READY OR NOT is a funny horror movie about one of the less romantic wedding nights. Grace (Samara Weaving, Ash vs. Evil Dead, MONSTER TRUCKS, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI) is nervous about marrying into the Le Domas family, who are super rich from their great grandfather or whoever’s board game company. So when the groom, Alex (Mark O’Brien, ARRIVAL), explains the family tradition that at midnight they have to go downstairs and play a game with the family, she doesn’t complain. She’ll do any silly thing to win them over.

They challenge her to a game of hide and seek. If she can stay away from them until dawn, she wins. She laughs and doesn’t take it seriously until she realizes they’re taking it very seriously. Like, trying to kill her seriously.

They’re not the hunters in HARD TARGET, they’re just standard rich people, so they’re not experienced killers. They do the ritual for every new family member, but which game they play is chosen at random, and only when hide and seek is drawn is there any violence. It’s the Russian roulette part of a Faustian bargain their relative made with somebody they call Mr. Le Bail. They believe in it, they’ll do it, but they’re terrible at shooting old guns and crossbows, so there are some misses and some friendly fire incidents. And Grace is able to put up a fight.

There’s a theme of family bonds. Grace doesn’t have a family, and is anxious to find one.
Alex has been estranged from his for some time, but is trying to make peace for the wedding. He seems closest to his brother Daniel (Adam Brody, George Miller’s JUSTICE LEAGUE MORTAL, MR. & MRS. SMITH), but there’s some tension about him having been left behind. Both try to warn Grace and give her a chance to “opt out” of the family, but of course she doesn’t read the “there is a secret ritual we haven’t told you about where we might have to kill you” part between the lines. Alex was betting on a harmless game being called, but now that shit got real he tries to help Grace, and the family locks him up. Daniel also shows some sympathy, and is torn about which side he’s on. I found myself rooting for him to help her, not because I felt she needed his help, but because I liked him and didn’t want her to have to kill him.

It’s an all around enjoyable movie, but its biggest strength is definitely Weaving, who deftly handles the duties of a John McClane or a final girl (getting increasingly bloody, beaten and dirty, but fighting to the end and getting away by the skin of her teeth) while being completely charming. In this sense it reminds me of HAPPY DEATH DAY, a movie with a high level of cleverness that’s still completely overshadowed by the magnetism of its great lead. And though Grace lacks Tree’s quality of being a fun-to-watch asshole, she is a novel horror heroine in that she gets to be funny. Not just be in funny situations (though there are plenty of those) – she also makes good jokes. She’s witty. This isn’t something we see often. Even in SCREAM, Sidney had to be the serious one.

Understandably, the filmmakers keep Grace in her wedding clothes the whole time, but she doesn’t let the cool thematic imagery be a hindrance. She switches to Converse, tears off the bottom of the dress, uses a sleeve to bandage a wound, uses the sash to strangle somebody, adds a bandolier. (We may see this inspire a Halloween costume or two this year.)

The best joke in the movie is the upper class version of the HALLOWEEN neighbors-turn-the-lights-off-and-pretend-not-to-be-home scene. Grace badly wounds herself to squeeze through an opening in the wrought iron fence and runs out into the street to wave down a passing sports car… but the driver yells at her to get out of the road and takes off. Her subsequent tirade about “fucking rich people” is exquisite.

Said fucking rich people are a pretty easy target for light satire, but I think the premise plays it just right. This is a family passing down enormous wealth through generations. Some of them are jerks, one is a coke addict, none of them seem to be doing anything great for humanity, but they do have to make sacrifices. Literally. They’re in a situation where sometimes they have to kill an innocent person – a loved one even – to survive. (Also some goats, apparently?) It’s an old fucked up family tradition and it does seem like the younger ones are cooler and more questioning of it. And yet… they need to “protect their family.” Even a little kid gets in on the violence, and they never tell him to. He’s supposed to be in bed. But he follows their lead. He does what his family does.

Becky (Andie MacDowell, MAGIC MIKE XXL), the mother, genuinely likes Grace, and before the wedding tries to make her feel comfortable about not coming from a rich family. She’s not from money either. Despite this background and these feelings she adapts and commits to the fucked up Le Domas ways. She’s willing to put aside her personal feelings for their satanic pact.

As different as it is, READY OR NOT kind of mirrors some of the themes of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. They’re passing down this cruelty from generation to generation, they protect the family above all else, they fear outsiders. And from Grace’s perspective she’s trespassing in the world of these ultra-rich mansion dwellers. There’s a shot of Grace captured that I’m sure is a reference to Sally being bound and gagged at the beginning of the dinner scene. And I don’t know if this is intentional, but there’s another part that looks very similar to when Leatherface chases Sally through the brush at night. But instead of a chain saw on her ass it’s a limo!

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett previously directed DEVIL’S DUE and segments of V/H/S and SOUTHBOUND. The script is credited to Guy Busick & R. Christopher Murphy (story credit on URGE starring Pierce Brosnan). But now they’ll be known as the guys who did READY OR NOT.

Google informs me that Business Insider called READY OR NOT “the surprise hit of the summer,” and I’ve seen stories about what the filmatists think a sequel could be about. I’m not sure that’s necessary, but it would definitely be cool to see more movies, possibly of this tone, starring Weaving.

P.S. SPOILER PARAGRAPH ABOUT MY FAVORITE SCENE

For those who have seen it, let’s discuss how great it is when she’s trying to escape through the barn and runs into one of the little kids in the family, and her immediate thought is to protect him from what’s going on, to prevent him from being traumatized by it. But he pulls out a gun and shoots, blowing a hole right through her left hand. Isn’t it beautiful that she then punches him in the face and sends him flying like a bowling pin? It’s the ol’ ORPHAN move, where they find a way for us to laugh at an adult punching a kid, and then laugh that we laughed. The scene was worth it just for that, but then she falls through that cellar trap door thing and dangles from one hand and there’s a big ol’ nail sticking out and it leaves us in nervous suspense as to whether Grace, and the movie itself, will have the mettle to plop that hand-hole over the nail and hook on. And god damn it they both pass the test! I’ve seen alot of these movies with miraculously healing hand-holes (see LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III post railroad-spiking) but I’ve never seen one where the hole is used as a tool. I love it.

P.P.S. ANOTHER SPOILER ABOUT THE ENDING

I love the way it plays with whether or not the curse is a real thing. I was leaning toward it being true, because it would be a convenient but entertaining way to get her out of this mess. And it works. But I like that they also gave us that awkward minute or so of the family having to face the idea that maybe they’ve been doing this crazy shit for generations based on an empty superstition.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 9th, 2019 at 11:24 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “Ready or Not”

  1. What’s up with all those director duos these days?

  2. Haven’t seen this yet, but I’m really looking forward to it, even moreso after this review. I watched Mayhem and The Babysitter the same night about a year-and-a-half back, and my conclusion was that Samara Weaving is a star. She seems to pick really interesting projects, too. Her next one with Daniel Radcliffe also sounds crazy and fun.

  3. I was expecting much different beats then what I got and the trailer should all the good jokes but this is a good movie.

  4. This one was a lot of fun.
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    I agree about the end and whether it was going to be true or not. At first I respected that they were going with meaningful, symbolic ending of it not being true. Then I was happy they went with the bugnuts gory ending.

    I was also really impressed at how they were able to keep us guessing as to whether Alex was going to end up siding with her or the family. I loved that what pushed him over was the realization that he was going to lose her no matter what. He was deeply selfish in every aspect of his “love” for her. He didn’t want to get married because he knew it was fucked up to make a wife play the game, but deep down he was afraid it was true so he couldn’t get married without playing the game. And yet he knew how much she wanted to get married and that he’d lose her if he didn’t agree to getting married. But really he “loved” her because she made him feel like he was a good person so he was willing to take the chance with her life, which isn’t really love.

    I was a little disappointed that she never really got to go on a gonzo killing spree. Self defense spree? Save herself spree? You guys know what I mean.

  5. Vern, you should review Babysitter. It’s a good flick and Samara Weaving plays the villain – The babysitter of the title. She’s great, a star-making performance. She’s definitely going to places.

  6. Seconding (thirding?) the recommendation for THE BABYSITTER. I went in with pretty low expectations and, while it didn’t exactly blow me out of the water (it’s fine, not great, way more wink-wink funny than scary), Samara Weaving makes the whole thing worth watching. Just buckets of charisma.

    I don’t have a lot of time to get out of the house recently and I just blew three hours on IT PART TWO (or, as I call it, IIT), I’ll probably have to catch this one at home but it sounds like a fun one.

  7. Had a ball with this one. After this and CRAWL, I now have hope that theatrical horror has a future. And I still believe that even after IIT.

    Weaving is definitely my favorite actress of her generation. She always goes balls out no matter what role she’s in. Her face is so expressive and she’s got personality to burn. She seems both down to earth and a little nuts, and her choice of material has put her right in my wheelhouse. I second the recommendation for THE BABYSITTER, which is just fun sugar rush horror with some of that old McG sparkle. She’s great in it, obviously. But you knew that.

  8. MaggieMayPie, that is the reason why I was disappointed watching it but that’s just me being weird because the movie was quite good.

    Her next movie is a film directed by the Aussie who made Deathgasm with the awesome title of Guns Akimbo about “A guy relies on his newly-acquired gladiator skills to save his ex-girlfriend from kidnappers.”

    Also, she’s in the new Bill and Ted movie. She’s going places

  9. I’m frankly shocked this is getting so much love. From the trailers it looked liked such a too-cute-for-school, hammy “send up” that I was actively turned off. Smell the satire. It’s palpable. But if this many of you like it, I will give it the proverbial Redbox try.

    On the other hand, for whatever reasons, that new Rian Johnson joint looks like more my brand of too-enamored-with-its-own-cuteness.

  10. There just isn’t a ton to add about this one, which makes sense since it is a super lean, straight forward flick. I liked it. Thought it was a great looking movie that was really well done. And yes, Samara Weaving is another one of these girls we’ve seen lately (Vanessa Kirby, Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Rothe) who look to have a great career ahead if they pick the right movies. I liked The Babysitter fine enough, but most of that was because of Weaving. She turned that completely average movie into an above average one.

  11. So was the Van Horn family reference (it was noted this wasn’t the only rich family to make a literal deal with the devil) a reference to something? I found Witches of Eastwick had a Van Horn family. Did they perish at the end? I wonder if there were other references? It seemed mostly to be doing its own thing without being too cute with his homages, which is groovy to me. While Weaving deserves the praise, Brody was very cool and to the end of the movie I wasn’t sure where he had his allegiances.

  12. The Van Horns were one of the famous wealthy Dutch families of early New York. They used to own the land Central Park is on. So about as old as old money gets in America. They have a famous mansion and various scandals to their name. I believe they were also referenced in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

  13. Finally saw this, it’s now on streaming.

    It’s really good, and Samara is a star.

    But man, if there ever was a film that would have improved with more blood and gore, it’s this one. Yes, you get a decent amount of both, but the climax in particular should have been a practical effects bloodbath painting the whole room red, instead of the wobbling CGI bubbles we see. The ending works conceptually, and it’s an emotionally satisfying way to end the story. But it should have gone much further, with much better effects.

    Still, I would recommend this for sure.

  14. I just saw this and it’s a real spookablast.

    SPOILERS

    SPOILERS

    SPOILERS

    I saw it as (Get Out of) the Most Dangerous game with the temperament of Evil Dead 2. After watching Knives Out I was reminded of this movie and I liked it quite a bit more. Knives Out has a lot of superior individual elements but it didn’t all work together for me. This one really did. Did anyone think that when she’s smoking outside at the end that it’s taken from the ending of Heathers? She even told off her husband like Christian Slater being told off.

  15. …The Most Dangerous (G)ame.

  16. From the trailers, this film seemed a little too camp and enamored of its own cuteness, which turned me off. But then the reviews were good, and Vern and a lot of folks were positive on it, so, I gave it a try. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and I agree with Vern that Weaving has moxie and charisma for days. Great badass first-and-final girl.

    SPOILERS

    I could have done without the final reveal that it did take place in a supernatural world. It felt a little alien and underwhelming, detracting a little bit from the human element or stakes to the ending. This part actually was a good bit more campy than the rest of the film and was not really my cup of tea. Still enjoyed it overall, though. A lot of fun.

  17. I love that they just went there. Unexpected and that ending set the movie apart from similar ones.

    These directors are great, they constantly do good work and now apparently they’re doing Scream 5 so I’m excited, they’re a good match.

  18. I agree re: SCREAM, though I am not sure we need another SCREAM. I think the first one was pretty perfect, and the series sort of ran out of gas after that, though, I know that Part 2 has its defenders. I thought the sequels were okay, but the need to find a replacement baddie every time took some of the air out of things, as did the location-shifting as the kids kept moving on to new developmental milestones. Hard to top part 1, plus, I’m not ashamed to admit it, even if I never pictured myself uttering this sentence SPOILER FOR A 25 year-old film: It’s hard to top the Matthew Lillard/Skeet Ulrich villain team.

    SPOILERS FOR READY OR NOT…

    I agree with you that it shows a certain creative chutzpah to end it the way they did, and perhaps they would have had some splaining to do if they had ended it straight (where did all this semi-recent family cure lore come from, then). So, I’m not saying it was a dumb, lazy, copout ending. Throughout its running time, the film strikes a good balance between generous doses of comic relief and genuine action-suspense, but for the most part, and particularly the scenes anchored by Weaving or with her husband, there is legitimate tension and emotional stakes, along with same great, grueling survival horror. Whereas that last scene borders on slapstick comedy. We do get a few similarly toned moments when the sister accidentally kills a couple of people, but those are dished out sparingly, and I think the last scene is the most cartoony and slapstick of the whole film.

    To me, that undercuts things a bit and is a little too wacky. The trailers played up the wacky aspect, which is what turned me off, but then I was pleasantly surprised that the film actually delivered the goods with respect to cat-and-mouse surival horror-action. The little splashes of comic relief with these hapless and/or infighting blue bloods are fun, intermittent tension relievers, I just don’t think it does the film justice to end that way.

    Also, it seems to add at least a bit of moral ambiguity, since doesn’t it imply that these people are literally trapped by this curse and have to obey it or die. For me, that makes it a little less cute and charming, since to some extent, they’re trapped in this curse thing, too. Sure, they’re worse for dragging in others, and, sure, they could, I guess, do the noble thing and all fall on their collective swords with the curse. But I like it better if they’re just out-of-touch, self-rationalizing rich people who are stupid and callous enough to believe this hokum that rationalizes preying on others. It fits with the whole class warfare idea of the 1% believing they deserve to be the 1%, not having problems breaking a few 99% eggs to support their lifestyle, and just generally living in a world of narcissistic manifest destiny where they will go so far as to behave as a fanatical religious cult so long as it props up their sense of special-ness and superiority (kind of like the occult version of scientology or something). Some of the same themes sort of touched on with KNIVES OUT, minus the occult stuff.

    Anyway, with this ending, instead of the EYES WIDE SHUT secret society meets scientology rich people religion meets old-fashioned satanic panic cult fun … we get the fact that these people actually are cursed and have to fulfill this curse on pains of death or maybe death and hell or who knows what. It muddies the stakes, undermines them as villains, muddles the social commentary, and punctuates a harrowing adventure with goofball GHOSTBUSTERS-esque sploding people. Meh. Moxie, sure, but it was narratively and emotionally unsatisfying for me.

  19. I can’t argue the ending isn’t more cartoony and comedic, to me the movie earned it and to me, if it ended straight it might have seemed more typical. I don’t think it takes away the moral ambiguity, these richies are STILL choosing to kill people. If they just chose to not get married and let the bloodline die out, no more killings…but they can’t do that, can they? Family name must live on! And I feel like the movie was comedic enough to support it. Basically without the exploding I feel like the movie’s ending would have just felt like You’re Next…cause what else is there but to take them out one by one?

    Scream is a weird series…unlike you I love the changing of locations. I hate the Friday the 13th movies where every one takes place in the woods and most in the same camp. I like variety in a series. TOTALLY agree that the villains of the first were such a perfect writing and casting match that they could never better it. But I do like all of them. The first is a classic. The second is very very good but the killed seems a lot more arbitrary. Unlike the first, you can actually see the plan happening if you watch it again. It’s Stu’s idea to have the party, you see one of them leave to get the beers, it all works out. The second could have been anyone. The third…well, it’s a fun movie but man is it a mess. And the killer is the worst one, basically a non-character. BUT, I think the series made a roaring comeback wit the 4th, I thought it was great. The writing was there, the twists, everything. And with these guys that makes me hopeful they pull it off some more.

  20. Now that I’m hearing your enthusiasm for SCREAM 4, I might have to give it another shot. I should say that it’s not the changing locations that bothers me — all in all, I think Craven et al. did about as good a job as they could while playing within the confines of a non-supernatural story world. On paper and without hindsight, it’s crazy talk to even try a SCREAM 2, so, the fact that it wasn’t a complete face-plant embarrassment is a minor miracle. Craven and team just shrugged off all the sequel plotting constraints and even found a way to try and work them to favorable advantage. Well-played!

  21. Yeah maybe give it a shot, but you know hype never ever helps a movie! But if you agree on my general thoughts on the first three, then maybe it’s something to check out. I mean the 4th is always hard in a series, by then it really should be DONE. But I think the opening is fantastic…nothing’s going to beat the first for scares AND laughs AND unexpectedness, but they go full meta and it works. Unlike 2 and 3 I think the reveal of the murderer really works with what we’ve seen and I liked that a lot. The suspense stuff is done right…in 3 especially they seemed kind of lazy. They went back to the harder violence and gore which they noticeably eased off for 3. I think some of the problems people have with it is that we know the basic moves of this series, and they wanted something a little more mind blowing (the cast to all die, one of the main cast is the killer, etc). The idea that it was a supposed reboot where the legacy characters hand off the series to the new cast and then all the new cast dies was the twist but people complain about it like the filmmakers didn’t know what they were doing. I thought that was great.

    Order of scream movies for me: 1, 4, 2, and 3. But some of 2 is so strong I could switch 2 and 4 very easily. 3 is a distant last (but I still like it enough).

  22. Ha Franchise Fred approves IIT, Kurgan!

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