Radio Silence’s Ready Or Not raises the bar for any horror comedy that dares challenge “Milton Bradley’s Most Dangerous Game.” A bloody vicious, bloody hilarious, and bloody freakin’ outrageous winner. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett roll the dice on matrimonial manhunts, but success needn’t gambler’s odds. Samara Weaving has been destined for Scream Queen glory ever since The Babysitter (then Mayhem), and Ready Or Not completes a trilogy of performances uncontested by measurements of Ellen Ripley or Laurie Strode mojo. Instructions are clear, rules cleverly adhered to and violence of the utmost remorseless brutality – 2019’s summer movie season closes on top scores.
Grace (Samara Weaving) has, or will soon have, any girl’s dream life. She’s about to wed the man of her dreams, Alex (Mark O’Brien), at his family’s extravagant estate. Champagne flows, attendees fawn over the beautiful bride, but night’s end comes with a twist. The “Le Domas” name boasts a bajillion-dollar board game empire, and it’s ritual for incumbent family members to end their marriage night by playing a game drawn at random. Grace’s competition? Hide & Seek. A child’s challenge, right? Then why does Alex’s face turn ghost white upon the selection?
Notions of Ready Or Not being a “You’re Next knockoff” are blown to smithereens by huntsman’s rifles and unworldly curses. Before we get to Weaving’s dominance or the dangers of elitism, Radio Silence deserves tremendous credit for lighting aesthetic elegance ablaze. Production design bleeds one-percenter exquisiteness from glistening party gowns drenched in blood to the richest of mahogany architectures housing purebred vileness. Butlers in tuxedos blast Concierto symphonies while chasing on-foot Grace in sedans, displaying how the Le Domas brainwashing affects even those not born into royalty bloodlines. Ontario mansion Casa Loma drips torrential flows of wall-to-wall character, playing up the Le Domas’ dastardly affluence – such a *gorgeous* backdrop stained a darkened shade of red.
Picture this: Grace standing in the doorway of the La Domas’ trophy and game room. Her wedding gown ripped to reveal dirty yellow Converse sneakers, grime dirtying her pristine white lace — an ammo belt from shoulder-to-hip and unreasonably large hunting rifle in-hand. One perfect shot to be remembered forever in 2019’s cinematic canon.
Ready Or Not is a rare genre extravaganza that answers promises, across all fronts. Ninety minutes of senior citizens wielding battle axes and “Harbinger Hasbro” branded carnage by way of an unholy pact in gameplaying form. A children’s sport morphed into one woman’s harrowing escape from a psychopathic family who believes death awaits without sacrifice by dawn. Humor is despicably slapstick, rooted in delusion, and loudly skewers socialites who get away with literal murder based on status. It’s as wildly entertaining as it is alarming, not to shy from copious amounts of survivalist punishment. From Grace’s vows to an Act III engulfed in flames, writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy crack an all-time horror comedy script wide open.
As someone who’s championed Samara Weaving since Ash Vs. Evil Dead/The Babysitter, then again after Mayhem, Ready Or Not proves the Aussie sensation deserves her own horror or action-centric franchise. No actress this decade challenges Weaving’s Scream Queen performativity outside Jane Levy in Evil Dead. Grace is sliced by iron, beaten senseless, and backed into a corner as Weaving’s vocal cords endure one bloodcurdling workout – where she thrives.
Weaving’s screeches escape from a guttural pit of desperation and angst, her quivers when creeping throughout the Le Domas manor engaging fear in its most primal state. Then, the flip – Weaving’s defensive combat as she demonstrates what makes any “survivor girl” worth watching. Death not an option, obstacles in her path made to feel the insurmountable pain she’s endured. Weaving’s firecracker attitude, reaction to being failed by weaker counterparts, and full immersion into the roughest, tumbliest roles stands unparalleled. May this be the nuclear breakout she deserves.
Weaving rises above all else, the flame-spitting Phoenix she is, but Busick and Murphy outline dramatic weight that’s deepened by supporting casts. Adam Brody boozes his way through an abhorred tradition, wrestling with personal morality versus devotion to family (through thick snarkiness). Melanie Scrofano snorts and ingests every available narcotic as the family screw up, always a source of spirited (artificial) energy. Elyse Levesque confesses to gold-digging as Brody’s wife, as she’d rather be dead than living her past outside La Domes lavishness. Parents played by Andie MacDowell and Henry Czerny lean into protecting dysfunctional legacies with emphatic disregard for others, Mark O’Brien’s son a rare voice of sanity after “escaping” from a family who slaughters goats in the name of prosperity.
It’s a necessary commentary on normality. How anything seems sensible when your family members are the ones encouraging or permitting actions, and how easily blind power corrupts — classism at its most unhinged. You wouldn’t expect these cracks to be filled so completely in a film about hunting brides or grooms in the name of heritage, but here we are.
Brian Tyler’s original score binds Ready Or Not, staying thematic by calling upon evil wedding orchestra vibes. Tempo favors Grace’s scampering through servant tunnels while string instruments call back to her slow waltz down a flower-lined aisle, or place childhood sing-alongs (“Hide & Seek”) atop armory gear-up montages. Radio Silence ensures detailed cohesion throughout their newlywed warfare, and Tyler’s musical contributions play a significant part. Something I’d snap up on vinyl without hesitation; odes to Tchaikovsky and Beethoven dialed into the madness at hand with subtle thriller beats.
Ready Or Not is the most messed-up fun you’ll have at the movies all year. It’s shockingly scary, punchily satirical, familially ferocious, despicably torturous, unforgettably fun, gallantly gruesome, divinely destructive, and SO MANY MORE things. Excuse my hyperbole, but rarely are horror comedies conceptualized and executed to deliver *exactly* as advertised. Samara Weaving is a gift to the horror genre, as is Radio Silence’s sadistic and sophisticated slice of millionaire injustice. Have all the stars. Ready Or Not: destined to bring horror-lovin’ families together while ripping on-screen relatives apart. Home is where the horrors thrive, as they (well, I) say.
Ready Or Not is an exquisite horror comedy heavy on familial dysfunction, heavier on gameplaying brutality, and always a reminder that Samara Weaving deserves to be the biggest of megastars.