Ready or Not (2019)
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olp, Tyler Gillett
Writers: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy
Starring: Samara Weaving, Mark O'Brien, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny, Adam Brody
Ever have trouble with your in-laws? Well, you will be counting yourself lucky after watching this year's riotously fun horror-comedy Ready or Not, the story of a young bride forced to take on her cross-bow and axe-wielding new family inside their hideously large and exquisite mansion. What starts as a seemingly innocent game of the childhood favourite Hide and Seek soon turns into a violent race for survival as Grace navigates her way through the rooms of the house to avoid gruesome death at the hands of her new husband's disturbed family, the Le Domas's.
Films possessing something similar to the above description can typically take one of two routes, those routes being darkly comic or just straight dark; Ready or Not firmly and unapologetically takes the former, turning a truly horrifying situation into an exciting and gleefully violent adventure. Unlike other dark comedies, however, Ready or Not has mastered the subtle blend of horror and comedy to an impeccable standard which has not often been achieved before. Few films can marry the two concepts together so successfully; the comedic elements can often undercut the horror, often resulting in a fitfully funny and disturbing film, but one which fails deliver any truly scary moments. Even then, when such moments are delivered they can often feel tremendously out of place in a film that has thus far brought smiles and laughs (albeit stifled or perhaps nervous laughter). Ready or Not deftly side-steps this problem, and manages to offer moments of hilarity and moments of true tension with neither of them stepping on the toes of the other. As a result, Ready or Not creates an almost unique experience where comedy and horror can co-exist in their purest form without being diluted by one another.
Arguably the film's success can be largely attributed to the performances found within in, particularly the one given by Samara Weaving as our matrimonial protagonist Grace. As well as being wonderfully authentic, Weaving provides an oddly nuanced performance for this type of film and is given a lot of room to manoeuvre within her character's many dimensions. A typical final girl this is not, with her wicked, quick-fire sense of humour, her tumultuous childhood backstory and her terrified response later in the film all being established efficiently and effectively, creating a genuine on-screen personality which is magnetic to watch. It is from Weaving that a lot of the comedy is supplied, with her many quips and jibes, but she can also convey fear when she wants to. In her more stressful scenes it is hard not to be empathic and, despite the film's comedic overtones, it is made very clear through her performance that Grace's situation is no laughing matter. It is a committed performance, commanding much of the film's success, and one which sees Weaving going full-John McClane by the film's end.
The supporting cast is not without its merits, however, particularly Henry Czerny - the head of the Le Domas family - who is brilliantly menacing while also being able to dial up the comedy as he becomes increasingly exasperated. Mark O'Brien is also effective as the new husband to Weaving's Grace, offering a surprisingly wrought and emotional performance as he tries to protect his new wife from his deranged family members. Andie MacDowell is arguably wasted as Becky Le Domas, the wife of Czerny's Tony, being given very little to do, but delivers a solid if not under-utilised performance nonetheless.
Combine these performances with a mysterious but also thrilling score and the creative and intelligent use of a relatively confined set, and you have one of the most thrilling and fundamentally fun horror-comedies you will have likely seen in recent years. Ready or Not has stormed into 2019 and rightly commanded the attention of horror lovers everywhere with its quick-wit and cut-throat attitude.
In one line: Ready or Not is a perfect cocktail of a film, with horror and comedy perfectly blended to create a uniquely compelling story based on one of the simplest of childhood games.