Whilst perhaps not a contender in-league with the modern wave of contemporary indie horror denoted by such films as The Babadook, It Follows, Get Out, The Witch or Hereditary, early trailers for Ready or Not looked promising; a high concept, original, suspense thriller that’d usher audiences through the dog days of summer by way of a genre mashup replete with gore and glee. Helmed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (the directing duo that brought us V/H/S and Devil’s Due), Ready or Not’s plot makes for the perfect elevator pitch. Newly nuptialed bride is hunted down by her wealthy in-laws on the grounds of their lavish mansion estate in a deadly game of hide and go seek. It’s kill or be killed as an array of centuries old weaponry are utilized in what one may consider to be the ultimate bride war. But does this savvy spec script deliver beyond its killer idea? Do the respective directors succeed in executing a finished feature film in the same manner the film’s antagonistic in-laws hope to succeed in executing spouses?
Samara Weaving (The Babysitter, Three Billboard’s Outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Grace, a newlywed coping with the anxieties of matrimony and the wavering approval of her rich in-laws. Little does Grace realize, her newly acquired family’s idea of a hazing ritual places extra emphasis on the whole “ritual” part. With the occasional aid of new hubby Alex (Halt and Catch Fire’s Mark O’Brien), Grace must survive till dawn and evade the blue blooded La Domas family’s attempts to hunt her down in this class warfare wedding party reminiscent V.C. Andrews. The Le Domas’, a family whose fortunes were built on board games, sporting goods and death pacts will stop at nothing in their Most Dangerous Game inspired pursuit of the blushing bride.
The film is ultimately undermined by an inactive protagonist who’s adversaries are more likely to die or be dispatched via happenstance than by the actions of the heroine herself and an ending that not only jumps the shark but does quadruple summersaults over a school of megalodon. It’d be more than enough for the antagonists’ motive to be a combination of twisted familial tradition and suspicions of gold-digging (mild spoilers ahead). The added deal with the devil plot reveal is not necessarily a bridge too far however an ambiguous ending a tad more open to interpretation would be preferable here. The feature flounders between broad comedics (exemplified by Wynonna Earp’s Melanie Scrofano) and melodrama, with a closing shot ripped right off the far superior film Heathers. Solid performances by Weaving, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny and Groundhog Day’s Andie MacDowell fail to deliver this flick far beyond mediocrity.
Were I to put on my nitpicker hat and play screenwriter (hard spoilers ahead), the film’s finale had already established that the mansion had begun to catch fire. They could have had the remaining members of the Le Domas family trapped in the inferno and maintained a more ambiguous take as to whether the deal with the devilish Le Bail was factual or fabricated. I’d also have preferred for Grace to have taken a more proactive role with regard to killing off her in-laws as opposed to a random dumbwaiter death, a coked up cousin firing off her crossbow and a supernatural series of spontaneous combustions. I suppose we at least get to see Grace go toe to toe with the butler (which begs the question as to why any of the help would feel the need to aid in the manslaughter shy of a satanic pact with La Bail but I digress).
Purge scribe Guy Busick penned the screenplay here and if one were to match his filmography up with that of co-writer Ryan Murphy and the film’s two directors, it’d communicate a transcript of C minuses within the annals of horror cinema. Things are no different here, which is a real shame as Ready or Not’s initial concept had real potential. Jordan Peele’s Us delivered a better horror film on the subject of class warfare. Dead Ringers, Rebecca, American Psycho and Eyes Wide Shut remain superior suspense thrillers with regard to satirizing high society. As for Ready or Not, I for one would rather not.