Meeting the in-laws for the first time can be tough, especially when you are marrying into the Le Domas Dominion. For Grace (Samara Weaving) it took a wedding for her to finally be introduced to her husband’s family. The Le Domases affluent through their long-established boardgame business. On the night of the wedding, Grace is instructed to take part in the tradition that every married in family member must partake in, a game at random choosing. Unfortunately, Grace pulls the card Hide and Seek, which is a rare but celebrated tradition in which she must survive until dawn as the family hunts her into the night. Though it sounds like an absurd plot, it’s crafted in such a way that it is one of 2019’s most entertaining films.
2017’s “Mayhem” put Samara Weaving in the limelight of a heavily crowded catalog of indie actors, but it’s her performance in “Ready or Not” where she truly shines. I find it highly unlikely that this film won’t slingshot her career to the likes of her Hollywood doppelganger Margot Robbie. From beginning to end I was captivated by how she handled the diversity of genres: humor, romance, horror and drama. Whatever emote is necessary in a given scene she performs astonishingly well, for example juggling hysteric laughter and trauma with a drop of a hat. There’s one moment where Weaving lets out a scream that communicates her distress like no other. I generally felt off-put by it, in the sense that it was done so well it felt genuine- mix of suffering and insanity. It’s not just what she endures, but how Grace reacts to the ongoing situations. Add Grace’s downright badass look (guerilla warfare bride) and you got an iconic scream queen for the modern age.
What makes Grace stand out between many other “final girls” in the Horror genre is balance. She isn’t completely helpless when it comes to survival, but there is an established vulnerability to her as well. Even when hijinks ensue with some of the more less put together family members, there is the opposite side of the spectrum that ruthlessly hunt her through the night with precise determination. Along her journey, she encounters both luck and turmoil within the boundaries of the Le Domas estate, making her position between self-reliance and dependence on others’ actions more pronounced. In addition to the authentic portrayal, Grace’s gritty pursuit of survival solidifies her as a fan favorite to the genre. Just about every aspect of her character is nailed to a tee. The only minor gripe is the lack of character backstory we have of Grace. It’s briefly mentioned that she was a former foster child, which explains her yearning to be apart of a family, but the screenplay could have invested a little more time into her past to create an even stronger understanding of her pathos.
Each family member has a well-written personality that doesn’t feel contrived by the least. They gallivant in their entitlement, but it doesn’t come off overly snobby- a tough feat. The reasoning behind their actions is explained thoroughly during the first act, though much more of the narrative unfolds to be a multilayered story. Substance abuse is tackled in the film as a tool for humor at its surface but is explored during meatier moments in the screenplay. One character, in particular, the great aunt, had an impervious look of disdain on her face that offered as many laughs as it did malice.
The camera work of “Ready or Not” is done in such a way that it gives you spacial awareness in a given scene; from slow panned shots of empty hallways to shakiness that heightens the chaotic fear as Grace frantically sprints to avoid her capture. Ambient lighting from the mansion gives off a yellow-orangish hue to the surrounding environment and characters. Though these colors typically signify happiness and warmth, it works in a way to create a sense of being in the candlelit past that seems bleak. It’s a film that is simple to the eye while maintaining a beautifully cinematic look.
The comedy is equally as prevalent as the intensity that this black horror-comedy contains. Quippy dialogue and violence mesh together in a hilarious package. It’s a great pallet cleanser to some gruesome moments within the film. These mental breaks of laughter create more energy for the viewer to root for Grace towards the latter half.
“Ready or Not” maintains a stronghold of the understanding of what makes not just a great horror movie, but a film in general. Gone are the repetition of predictable jump scares and dull characters that fit in a cookie-cutter formula as “Ready or Not” exceeds expectations as a sleeper hit for movie lovers.