The image is compelling; a bride in her wedding dress with a gun in her hands, ammo strapped around her body. You know exactly what you’re in for… or do you? I tried to stay as far away from the original trailer as I could before I watched Ready or Not starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell, because I wanted to go in with very little idea of the tone. I’m glad I did, because I was pleasantly surprised by the humor, and the absolute powerhouse performance by Weaving.
Let’s start with the plot. In the film, Weaving plays a young bride who is marrying into a family that grew rich on their board game empire. She’s come from foster homes, and is pretty clear on the fact that her new, snobby family isn’t all that jazzed about their son’s decision to marry her. On her wedding night, she has to pull a card from a creepy old box and play a game with the family at midnight. You can guess what that game is. Hide and seek is usually a fun game, unless the entire family thinks you need to die before sunrise or they’ll all perish.
From the very beginning, we’re shown that this is going to be funny. The bride has a great sense of humor, a foul mouth (something I very much appreciate), a joyous outlook despite feeling a bit overwhelmed and a snorting laugh. She’s clearly in love with her husband-to-be, but his family… well, they’re jerks. One look at the over-the-top dour glances of his terrifying aunt (Nicky Guadagni who has a very Cloris Leachman vibe) and you know this is intended to make you laugh. You also get a very clear flashback to the tone of the forever favorite in the genre Clue. Once characters like the very Robert Palmer-esque maids show up, it’s very obvious where this is going.
Samara Weaving does a spectacular job of giving us audience eye view of this group of crazy rich people who will do anything to stay that way. What she also does is keep the audience laughing and believing in her ability to survive. The entire cast shines here, but Weaving absolutely nails the role with excellent comic timing, charm and badassery, and I’m excited to see what she does in the future. This is absolutely a breakout film for her. Brody as her new brother-in-law stands out with his performance, and so does MacDowell, but this is a surprise to no one.
Often when we have a horror comedy, the sense of whether or not our protagonist (and our villains) will survive sort of disappears. You might be having fun, but in the end, who cares who dies? In Ready or Not, you do care. There is never a time where you think it would be funny to see the bride fail. You can feel her panic of knowing she’s being hunted by an entire family in a house they know and she doesn’t. There are stakes here, and that never fails. The statement the film makes about the rich and their lack of morality doesn’t make the characters less interesting, even while it makes you want them to get theirs.
So, what doesn’t work? As wonderful as the performances are, I wish they’d been given more room to get goofy. If you’re going for Clue, go for Clue. The stakes would still have been high, even if the comedy was broader. There were moments where I wanted some of the family members to take it to the next level. There is something a bit unsatisfying about seeing them restrained. Also, there was no way any ending was going to be big enough for this, and here they did go full goofy. It just doesn’t fit with the comedy restraint shown in the rest of the film. There were moments of it, some involving those maids, almost as if the filmmakers tried to push it into high camp territory, then were afraid and pulled back. Also, the supernatural seems shoved in, and I’m not sure that serves the story.
Overall though, this is definitely worth a watch. It’s just fun. Weaving is going to be a star, and you should see the beginning of that. It just feels like a few more moments of taking off the campy governor might have pushed it into classic Clue territory.
READY OR NOT REVIEW RATING: 7/10
Ready or Not opens in theaters on August 21, 2019. Click here for all our Ready or Not coverage.