The Games We Play
Ready or Not is directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and stars Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O'Brien, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell.
In what has been a rather bizarre turn of events, the summer 2019 season for me has been highlighted by a series of short, fun, and bloody horror-thrillers that aim to be nothing more than a good time at the theater. January through May 2019 was more bulked up than usual when it came to new releases that I felt the urge to see and review here on this blog, but then came June, and the new releases slowed down big time: Toy Story 4 ended up being the only true must-see. For those who are reading this wondering why in the hell have I not done a review for the live-action adaptation of The Lion King, it's because of two different reasons.
1.) Disney's non-stop greed has brought about a continued onslaught of everything sacred in their history books; these live-action remakes demanding that you give them your hard-earned money by succumbing to your childhood nostalgia.
2.) I am not a fan of the original Lion King.
So as you can tell by the lack of new reviews throughout this summer season, there's not been a whole lot of action at the theater, adding new meaning to the phrase: "the dog days of summer". Not to worry: the fall 2019 season looks to be offering a fresh batch of worthwhile new releases, so I hope to be getting back into a more consistent routine from here on out.
Now then, moving on to the actual review part of the review. I'm a little hesitant to call Ready or Not a horror movie; there isn't a whole lot going on that can be appropriately considered scary. As the title implies, Ready or Not is a horror-movie version of the game hide-and-seek, where the "seekers" are savage murderers who plan to kill you once they find your hiding spot. Thing is, there's much more to the plot than just watching Samara Weaving outsmart a group of killers. Samara Weaving plays Grace De Lomas. She has just married the filthy rich Alex De Lomas (O'Brien), and, per the De Lomas family tradition, the newly weds must play a game in order for the bride to become fully initiated into the family. Samara draws a card that says hide-and-seek, meaning Grace must go hide while the rest of the family tries to find her. Now, the De Lomas wedding night tradition was first started a long time ago by a man named Justin Le Bail, and Bail had declared that, if the hide-and-seek card was chosen, the family must deliver the bride as a sacrifice before dawn or else they will all die. Grace soon learns what the family intends to do with her, and so, she must evade capture and escape the family estate.
When looking purely at it from a conceptual point of view, Ready or Not is kind of a dumb film. Why did Justin Le Bail curse the De Lomas family such that if they played hide-and-seek above any other game, they would have to offer a sacrifice? The reason that Ready or Not is not a dumb film is because of the way it works from the point of view that's more important: the execution point of view. Ready or Not is described as a satirical outlook on the wealthy, the 1% to be more specific. What the movie wants to drive home is that the super rich are a particular brand of people that are so caught up in their meritorious status that, in the face of danger or some other kind of threat, they will go to whatever lengths necessary to maintain that status. To the wealthy, being wealthy means being like God, like you are on a higher, divine plane that you deserve to stay on your entire life. The great thing is that Ready or Not generates this commentary by being subversive with its story and without having to resort to any sort of shove-it-down-your-throat approach.
- Samara Weaving makes a case for why she could be one of the future's brightest stars, delivering a performance that is equal parts charming, funny, and spine-tingling. The plot likes to throw Grace around like a rag doll: her wedding dress gets ripped to shreds, she busts up one of her hands pretty bad, and she keeps having to find ways to outmaneuver members of this family that want to sacrifice her. Weaving handles it all like a champ: convincing, ghostly facial expressions, grisly shrieks of pain when she gets hurt, and speaking various lines like someone about to have a panic attack. One moment that really sold me on her performance is a scene in which Grace is hiding in the kitchen from the family butler. Grace has a gun she is trying to load with bullets, and as the butler is whistling and making tea on the stove, Grace tries to load the gun, and we get a close-up shot of her eyes, darting in every direction imaginable. Great acting comes in more than just the dialogue being spoken. In this scene, Weaving is playing a character who is making a tough decision (preparing a gun to try and kill someone) in the middle of a perilous situation, so of course she can't quite maintain all her composure. Weaving goes beyond just looking scared and screaming during these kinds of scenes. She adds these extra little details to better encapsulate what someone like Grace would be feeling if they were trapped in a house with several people trying to kill them. Could Samara Weaving be a new Scream Queen? I think Jessica Rothe has a bit of an edge over Weaving at the moment, but I think the potential is definitely there.
- For some odd reason, Ready or Not has an ongoing subplot regarding Alex's brother Daniel, whom we are told is a heavy drinker that has an awkward interest in Grace. The later stages of the plot are heavily influenced by Daniel, and it feels completely forced and unnecessary. Daniel acts strangely throughout the whole movie and is nothing more than a glorified side character, so I am unsure as to what the screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murray was hoping to achieve by giving significant scenes to a character that does basically nothing up until said significant scenes. It would be like if Dak Ralter, Luke Skywalker's co-pilot during the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, was given the exact same amount of screen-time leading up to the battle, but instead of getting killed in battle, Dak would have a brief lightsaber duel with Darth Vader first. Why is this particular character altering the plot's primary chain of events? Because I have no idea. There's only so much you can do with your characters in a 90-95 minute span, but this was not the course of action to take.
All in all, Ready or Not is a fun little horror-thriller that is far more enjoyably goofy than it is legitimately scary. Samara Weaving steals the show with a knockout performance that ought to help establish her as one of cinema's new aspiring actresses, and the movie has a neat and thoughtful criticism on the super rich, providing said criticism with a darkly humorous bite. The writing decisions made with Daniel De Lomas late in the movie are awkward and take away some from the film's story-telling, but this is still the kind of summer-time movie that you can watch and feel rewarded by. It's honestly the best of both worlds: the movie is fun, bloody, and short, and it provides some nice food for thought. That's not a bad way to spend part of your day at a theater, if you ask me, especially in the waning days of summer.
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