Review: READY OR NOT Is Uneven But Playful

FIRST IMPRESSION

Ready or Not has plenty of fun moments, but it does lose its steam heading into its third act. Nevertheless, it's a fun late-august horror flick.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Now that summer is winding down to an end and the kiddos are going back to school, that means the very short post-summer but pre-fall movie season has begun: late August movies! Most films released during this time are either not of a particularly high quality or are low-to-mid risks for which the studios had a difficult time figuring out the marketing. The new horror-comedy Ready or Not falls firmly into the latter category.

The movie follows a newlywed bride whose in-laws force her to take part in a deadly game of hide-and-seek as a part of a long-standing family tradition. On paper, this is a great concept, and it mostly works in execution too. But unfortunately, the filmmakers felt the need to try to take their film to the next level of craziness in the third act, and that is when the movie falls apart.

Granted, the film should be praised for not taking the most predictable route. The obvious direction for the movie to go is for the protagonist to be hunted for a bit and then turn against her hunters. The direction in which the film ends up going is likely the second most predictable way it could have gone, though, and although the wackiness of the movie is admirable, it doesn’t always pay off.

Ultimately, the biggest sin that the film commits is that it shoots itself in the foot in terms of world-building. For much of the movie’s first hour, we are being lured into the “Le Domas Gaming Dominion” and its complex mythology. Of course, you can tell where the film is headed and what it is implying, but the context of the movie is made painfully obvious in the third act, ruining any sense of allure the world had for future entries.

ready or not weaving
Samara Weaving in the film READY OR NOT. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved.

The character development is also somewhat lackluster. Although two or three of the characters do have an interesting arc, the rest of the band of misfits serve little purpose other than to be the butt of a joke. Although increased development would have been best, the film would have benefitted even by removing the characters’ backstories altogether. As is, there seem to be some plot points that were introduced and never explored, such as Grace’s background in the foster system and her desire to have a family.

That said, despite the movie’s uneven script, it is still very enjoyable to watch. Even though you can tell where the film is going to end (especially since far too much was revealed in the trailers), there’s still a solid amount of suspense. Directors Matt Bettineli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett are able to trick you into thinking that something unexpected will happen (when it rarely does).

The movie also has a dark sense of humor about it that will keep you laughing for most of its runtime. If you aren’t a fan of demented comedy, you are unlikely to find this film funny and may not find much joy in it. However, if the inherent absurdity of a deadly game of hide-and-seek on one’s wedding night tickles your funny bone, you are in for a treat. That said, when the movie goes into cheesy territory towards its end, attempting to force the joke, it falters and fails to stick the landing.

The charm of the cast also goes a long way in making the film more enjoyable. The lead, Samara Weaving, is very charming and shows that she is a really great lead actress. Adam Brody’s performance is much more laid back than Weaving’s, but he is also likable and charismatic in his role. Henry Czerny, who plays the family’s patriarch, hams it up in his role in a glorious fashion. The only disappointment in the movie is the phenomenal actress Andie MacDowell, who is fine in her role, but simply wasn’t given enough to do. She needs to be cast as a horror villain in a movie again, but next time with a more substantial role.

Visually, the film is pretty strong, with great production design creating a unique world within the movie. The Le Domas mansion is built and shot in a way that makes us feel like the film takes place in a giant world even though most of it is confined to the house and its surrounding property. Additionally, the movie is shot with yellow overtones, almost as if by candlelight or lamplight, giving the film a uniquely old-school feel.

Ready or Not may not live up to the insanely high expectations set by its trailer, but for an August horror flick, it’s a solid amount of fun. At the very least, this movie is sure to satisfy horror hounds’ craving for blood and gore.

Ready or Not opens in theaters on August 21.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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