The Perfect Wedding: a 'Ready or Not’ Film Review
by Will Lindus
Amid an unfair targeted smear campaign by right-wing political pundits and President Trump himself, The Hunt made headlines a few short weeks ago with its sudden cancellation. Certainly, a satirical thriller that involves a murderous manhunt based on class and political affiliation is going to rub some the wrong way, but the film became a lightning rod for those seeking to find some other means of solving gun violence than, say, sweeping gun reform. Or, it was a worthy distraction from the issues at hand. Or, I’m showing my bias on the subject. *shrug emoji*
Regardless, it feels a bit like a miracle that Ready or Not has made it to theaters while the wounds from the cancellation of The Hunt as still so fresh, as it is colored by some of the same shades of satirical class-based violence. It is difficult to overstate just how fortunate we are to have this movie, not only because of the political climate in which it somehow managed to be released but also because - and I cannot stress this enough - it kicks ass. It kicked my ass. And if you’re a fan of horror films, it’ll kick your ass too.
Today is Grace’s (Samara Weaving) wedding day, and she is experiencing a flood of complex emotions. Having grown up in the foster care system, she’s longed for the tight bonds of family her entire life. Enter Alex (Mark O’Brien), heir to the Le Domas family fortune, who sweeps her off her feet. After a short romance - 18 months - Grace pushes the reluctant Alex to proposal. Now, we find Grace on the cusp of having everything she ever wanted - a beautiful wedding dress, a loving husband, and a tight knit family that she is soon to be welcomed into. Sure, their eccentricities and their preposterous wealth are off-putting to the level-headed Grace, but they represent the terminus of her life’s ambition.
The wedding is storybook and picturesque, the stuff of dreams, but the night of the wedding takes a bizarre turn. Grace finds out that the family has an odd tradition; since the family has made its fortune through developing and selling board games over the past several decades, any new addition to the family must simply play a game at midnight. Easy enough, right? After all, the obnoxiously comfortable with his new wealth Fitch (Kristian Bruun) tells Grace that all he had to do was play a hand of Old Maid when he married in to the family a few years prior. But when Grace draws the card for Hide and Seek, she soon discovers that the rules of the game state that the family has to hunt her and kill her before dawn.
Despite the buckets of blood and the ample use of sudden violence and cringe-inducing trauma as Grace tries to survive the night, Ready or Not wisely positions itself as more of a pitch black horror comedy as opposed to a straight-laced suspense thriller. The Le Domas family is not a team of trained killers hunting for sport; they believe that a pact between a family ancestor and a demon is responsible for their family fortune, and that if they fail to kill Grace by dawn then the pact will be broken and they’ll face terrifying consequences. Whether their fears are well-founded or merely delusions past down through the generations, they become inept hunters only able to gain the upper hand through numbers, resources, and a more intimate understanding of the family manor.
The magic of Ready or Not comes from Samara Weaving in what feels like a star making role. While this isn’t her first foray into horror - she made a minor splash as the lead antagonist in Netflix’s The Babysitter - Weaving finds the complexity and nuance of Grace’s emotional state while also remembering to make the character engaging and fun. It would have been easy enough to play the role as a blushing bride turned badass, and yeah, some of that is here. But Weaving also gives us small moments and lingering expressions that remind us why this is so hurtful to Grace. On the most important and special day of her life, we feel her disappointment as she realizes that the new family she longed for didn’t turn out to be what she had always wanted. As she rips her beautiful wedding dress to shreds so that she can run more easily, her hands pause briefly - and it is heart-breaking. And when she stares into a mirror, covered in dirt and blood, wielding a weapon she found during her night of survival, we aren’t treated to a moment of badassery, but instead one of sadness.
Even the film’s faults feel as though they serve a higher purpose. At times, the film makes a few breaks in logic, but it always does so when the alternative is to set up a laugh or a moment of fun. ‘Ready or Not’ never forgets that it works best as a crowd-pleaser. There are also a few moments when the exposition gets a bit heavy, perhaps overexplaining the backstory or some of the character motivations. There’s probably a tighter version of this script that exists in another revision pass or two. But, again, each of these exposition drops are placed to help make later moments of payoff rewarding. They feel like necessary evils, a Faustian pact in the moment for the promise of later reward.
Trust me when I say, that reward does come. The film’s final act brings ramps up the stakes and brings the character arcs to an entertainingly bloody crescendo. Will Alex’s mother Becky, sublimely played by Andie MacDowell, help secure her son’s happiness or protect the family lineage? After all, Becky has a soft spot for Grace, though she also fears the demonic ramifications that she has been warned about. Will family fuck-up Daniel (Adam Brody) make the rest of the Le Domas clan proud by helping in the capture / sacrifice of his brother’s new bride? Will family patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny), a man not used to not getting his way, keep his clan together? And will Grace be able to convert this night of terror into a happy ending?
Bottom Line: I loved Ready or Not. It’s an intense, terrifying, hilarious joy ride steered by one of the great horror performances of the year in Samara Weaving. Even its flaws elevate its strengths, showcasing just how many smart decisions directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett made in the casting and creation of this film. Plus, in a climate where similar films get cancelled by outrageous boycotts, it is refreshing to see a film that takes the piss out of wealth and class, handing the power back to someone with less resources but more scrappy drive. Ready or Not doesn’t just want to devour the rich; it wants to flame broil them and serve them up on a platter to the masses.
4.5 out of 5 Bear Paws