Once every so often a horror movie will come along that completely catches you off guard. A horror movie that ticks all the right boxes for those seeking multiple layers to their cinematic experience. Radio Silence’s Ready or Not is a completely absurd movie that shouldn’t amount to any more than an extremely silly concept that relies more on comedy horror than actual scares. But somehow this ridiculous concept ends up providing one of 2019’s strongest horror experiences.
Ready or Not has a simple premise. On the night of Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex’s (Mark O’ Brien) wedding, Grace learns that in order to become a ‘true’ member of the wealthy Le Domas family, she must play a game and prove she is worthy. Unfortunately for Grace, hide and seek is the name of the game and what starts as simple fun becomes a nightmare for the newlywed.
Just like Grace’s amused reaction to the idea of playing hide and seek with her in-laws, the concept within Ready or Not is silly and realistically, should not work. Radio Silence are aware of this and embrace this to full effect. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s direction is almost unrecognizable here and is a far cry from previous efforts like Devils Due (2014) or their disappointingly average segment in V/H/S (2012). Radio Silence have attempted to blend the home invasion-esque concept of survival with witty comedy horror to great result. Ready or Not’s general concept may not be anything new to horror but it is executed so well that it feels refreshing.
Samara Weaving as Grace is superb and gives an incredible performance as a lead we can root for. The Aussie actress is making something of a name for herself within the horror genre lately after her terrific lead performance in The Babysitter (2018) and rightly so. Weaving is easily one of the best elements in Ready or Not. Raised in foster homes, Grace never had a family so to speak. With this marriage, in order for the Le Domas family to accept her, she admirably wants to be everything she can possibly be for Alex even if that means participating in a game of hide and seek on her wedding night. When things hit the fan though, Weaving proves that Grace is no push over and confidently ensures that she transforms from sweetheart into defiant badass.
Adam Brody as Daniel Le Domas also gives a standout performance. The character is the dark horse in the family and is one of the few members who genuinely believes his clan are despicable. He carries out their orders not because he wants to but because he has no choice. Brody portrays this perfectly with a huge resentment lumbering over his character’s every action. Daniel undergoes a number of developments throughout the movie but Brody ensures each change transitions confidently. By its conclusion, you can’t help but feel sad for Daniel and that’s all down to Brody’s performance.
To be fair, the entire cast within Ready or Not does a great job. At times the script isn’t as strong as you would hope but the main cast keep things grounded, offering an amble opportunity for experimentation and fun. Andie MacDowell’s loving mother of the family, Becky, is likeable but nasty when she needs to be. Nicky Guadagni’s Aunt Helene is hilarious and her super serious approach to the ridiculous events surrounding her are executed to perfection and result in plenty of big laughs. Even Melanie Scrofano’s coked up Emilie manages to steal a few scenes with her penchant for messing things up regularly. In terms of the latter, there is an ongoing gag throughout Ready or Not courtesy of the character’s clunky nature that will be sure to persuade even the most hardened of pessimists to burst into a barrage of laughter.
Radio Silence also do a terrific job with the set pieces in Ready or Not. The home invasion like premise usually leads to formulaic action in horror nowadays but here, the directing duo have crafted some unnerving moments where tension takes over as opposed to all out carnage. Tension over jump scares or unnecessary carnage is always embraced with open arms by horror veterans. Ready or Not knows this and capitalizes on that understanding. One scene in particular, involving the family butler and Grace, stands out as a terrific example of convincing set piece choreography and provides an impressive application of tension over generic scares.
It’s not all positive though. Ready or Not struggles in its middle. The pacing is off once things start to settle down after stakes have been established. It slugs along until it’s conclusion but thankfully, the finale sets Ready or Not on fire. Also, some character decisions don’t quite add up by its conclusion either. While Brody’s Daniel’s arc is perfect, Ready or Not drops the ball in its approach to Alex. It almost feels like they threw something into the script to ‘spice’ things up because it was all getting a little too familiar. However ultimately, it falls flat.
The finale, however, sets Ready or Not apart from the crowd. Radio Silence have managed to create a gloriously ridiculous finale that embraces the film’s devilish nature to its fullest. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett toy with us to the near point of severe letdown. They tease us and taunt us but moments later provide an utterly satisfying climax that will be talked about for quite some time after Ready or Not has disappeared from our cinema screens. That ability to deceive and have us all linger on the edge of disappointment only to be left completely surprised at the true conclusion, that is impressive filmmaking.
Ready or Not is easily one of the year’s best horror movies and needs to be experienced on the big screen. The less you know about it, the better. For those going into this completely blind, you will probably be rewarded better than any of us and I envy that. This is some deliciously solid genre filmmaking.