‘Ready or Not’ takes successful stab at original horror

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Till death do us part has a whole new meaning.

“Ready or Not” is a high-stakes horror film surrounding a newlywed bride who marries into the Le Domas family, notorious for taking pleasure in literally hunting their new additions. Samara Weaving stars in this nightmare directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet. “Ready or Not” excels in its absurd concept and offers a unique slice of horror that serves an image of not just the hunted, but the hunters. 

Weaving spearheads the film with her infectious and energetic performance as Grace. She delivers comedic beats with a nuanced charm and completely throws herself into the terror that her character faces. In moments of danger and extreme stress, Weaving breaks down and works through the trauma with paranoid line delivery, hectic screams and unpredictable body movements. She is truly a force to be reckoned with. 

The rest of the film is supported by a wonderfully morbid and appropriately pathetic, gaggle of family members who have their targets set on Grace. Henry Czerny puts on a deranged performance as Tony Le Domas as he leads the pack’s hunt for Grace. Czerny injects an extra dosage of determination into his portrayal, clearly stopping at nothing until he gets what he wants. 

Adam Brody acts as Daniel De Lomas, Grace’s new husband who is caught between morbid family traditions and a desire to break free of his family name. Brody visually conveys a sense of uncertainty throughout the scope of the film as he mentally contemplates his next move and its repercussions. 

One of the more notable family members is Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni). Helene is the oldest of the Le Domas family and looks as if she could take on a Disney princess with her villainous style. Guadagni is cold and menacing in her portrayal with her razor-sharp stare and permanent frown. 

“Ready or Not” is nicely able to balance campy tones with a serious survival story. While the character’s motives are absurd and otherworldly, the film stays grounded. Characters don’t narrowly escape from situations with ease as the severe struggle between the hunted and the hunters is constantly highlighted. 

The general flow of the plot is a game of cat-and-mouse throughout most of its runtime, but it’s the set design, characters, cinematography and outlandish gore that keep things fresh and engaging. The carnage comes to a head in a wonderfully satisfying and morbid conclusion that makes the constant back and forth of the film feel worth it. The only critique regarding the scope of the plot would be that at times it feels a bit thin and almost lacking in significance or deeper message. It’s a fun and stylized take on a familiar style of horror. 

The cinematography is strategically calculated to match the tension and vibe of each scene. Moments where Grace is hiding for her life and close to danger are eerily static, with even the smallest movement seeming like it will alert the hunters. On the other hand, when characters are in a mad dash, the camerawork becomes unchained, reflecting the chaotic situation. The cinematography also makes use of the eerie lighting surrounding classic-style mansions, which cast a dark gloom over the entire main set piece.

“Ready or Not” is a bloody blast of a film that will keep you rooting for Grace’s survival. What could’ve been another dull cat-and-mouse-style film is elevated by Samara Weaving’s electric performance and a perfect balance of tone and beautiful cinematography.