It’s becoming less and less difficult to combine both horror and comedic elements into films as creative teams become even more adept at it.
Evil Dead II kind of set the stage for everyone else, but since then prospective directors and auteurs alike have added their own little contributions to its history. Ready or Not deserves to be in that conversation.
With the motif of a deadly game of hide and seek (or deadly games in general, which have been heavily explored in pop culture since 1924’s Most Dangerous Game), there’s a lot of room to be overly serious or full-on grindhouse with the concept. Where the directorial team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett get it oh so right is the choice to focus so heavily on the characters, which lets both themes naturally come out. Samara Weaving as Grace is at the head of the table so to speak, as the brand-new-bride of Alex (Mark O’Brien), who belongs to the mysterious Le Domas family.
Believing they need to complete a ritualistic deadly game before sunrise, the chase is on, and surprisingly, everything isn’t black or white. I don’t mean that in a cryptic, hokey way in that twists happen randomly, though. Instead, we get glimpses into the motivations of each family member to the point where those turns make sense.
I love Weaving and O’Brien in particular, as they have immediate chemistry (and if you know anything about the film, the reticence that he shows at explaining the game at the start is killer), but everyone else is perfectly cast. There’s the hysterical patriarch, the cold but cunning aunt, the son who is just over it: you get a sense of who these people are very early on, enough to become invested.
Tonally, the whole cast and crew nailed it. It’s almost effortless how uncomfortable the whole affair is (in a good way), to the point where you feel constantly unsettled at the events that are unfolding throughout the film. Some dragging in the third act aside, it avoids becoming a slog due to the aforementioned character studies: there’s even a great lore explanation for the carnage. Samara Weaving’s status as a scream queen has been cemented (if it wasn’t already with The Babysitter) and she helps elevate Ready or Not as a result. I know this is a monkey’s paw situation I’m gambling with here, but I wouldn’t mind a follow-up with a different game and a new cast: so long as the creatives return.