Years ago, I finally watched the horror anthology V/H/S, which was no mean feat in England circa 2012. The film, a mixed bag of shorts from a cartel of keen genre filmmakers, was a showcase of undiscovered potential, spawning a number of sequels and spin-offs only one of which (the grossly underrated V/H/S 2) could match or exceed the intriguing original.
My favourite of these original segments was ‘10/31/98’, a haunted house found-footage farce from creative trio Radio Silence in which some costumed pals out on the town for Halloween night accidentally interrupt an exorcism. It appropriately demonstrated the team’s knack for neat camera trickery and black comedy, capturing the thrill and pure fun of a horror marathon with your friends and a quick-witted script that playfully acknowledged its own silliness. If it did anything at all, ‘10/31/98’ made you want to see these people again.
Once we did, bitter disappointment followed. Devil’s Due, Radio Silence’s feature debut, landed as a derivative gut punch and seemingly wasted the trio’s potential on a script that rarely exceeded the boundaries of what films such as Rosemary’s Baby had done before.
Ready or Not, their first film since then, is even more viscerally enjoyable knowing that, in most respects, it finally pays off on that initial interest.
It’s Grace’s (Samara Weaving) wedding day and she’s marrying into the wealthy, eccentric Le Donas family—a paranoid dynasty carved out of a lucrative board game business. But when she pulls the wrong card from the family’s hallowed deck, Grace is pursued through the estate in a deadly game of hide and seek by a family that will do just about anything to preserve their inheritance. You’re bound to remain unsurprised if you know the trappings, but thankfully Ready or Not’s charm lies in execution.
Naturally, being a horror film, they underestimate the girl. Samara Weaving is the stand-out, turning the tables on her dysfunctional in-laws (including Andie MacDowell (!)) and looking good doing it. She’s nothing new—just the latest victim in a grand tradition—but she sticks in the mind long after, remaining an immensely watchable and distinct heroine amid bizarre circumstances. It’s a physically-demanding role in the vein of Evil Dead‘s besieged hero Ash, and her blood-stained wedding dress tells only half the story. Watch this space, she’s exceptional.
Weaving has a blackly comic script backing her—full of disdain for the 1% and their spoilt children as they bicker over dated weaponry and accidentally knock off their servants while Grace’s courage grows. While its comedy is expertly-pitched between the absurd and the terrifying, its ultimate message is a bit clumsy, making do with surface-level commentary that feels underwritten compared to the likes of Get Out. It does nonetheless situate Ready or Not among too few in the genre to talk class in a post-crash world.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett litter the film with a handful of surprisingly tense sequences, making up for visual blandness with well-directed jeopardy and a clarity that’s so often taken for granted. None of these individual elements set the genre on fire, mind, but they do add up to craft one of 2019’s most low-key genre triumphs; a nifty, satisfying little film with a star-making turn you only need look at the poster to recognize.