Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “Ready or Not” (2019)

Grace (Samara Weaving) has just gotten married to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and is on the verge of being officially accepted into his blue blood family, a dynasty who made their wealth from games, but on their wedding night, she has to participate in a longstanding tradition – to join the family for a single, randomly selected game. When the game turns out to be hide and seek, Grace is more than willing to participate and to get the weirdness over and done with, excited at the prospect of finally being part of a family, albeit an unconventional and stern one, but it soon becomes clear that Alex’s family is literally out for her blood and Grace must fight to survive the night and to avoid being captured and sacrificed in the family’s final macabre ritual.

As a bold and slightly unconventional horror/comedy, Ready or Not has its fair share of flaws; it’s not all smooth sailing as the comedy very rarely works, the performances are inconsistent, and there are issues with the script but overall, the film is decent and, unless you end up paying a lot of money for a ticket, it makes for an entertaining enough excursion to the cinema. It’s a bit like Game Night only not as good.

What Ready or Not has going for it most is the participation of Samara Weaving; having already impressed in The Babysitter, as well as providing some comic relief in Three Billboards, Weaving really carries the film on her shoulders and as Grace, she’s hardly the innocent young ingénue or clueless teen of your average horror film as she’s a little rough around the edges, perfectly capable of being a little coarse and “unladylike” at times, but she’s likeable enough and when the stuff hits the fan, she really steps up and brings the fight to her attackers with bravery, resilience and determination, not letting anyone stand in her way (even young kids!) as she fights to survive the night and her monstrous pursuers. It’s great to see Samara Weaving in more and more film projects, having made a big impression in The Babysitter, and she really is the saving Grace (ha!) of the film as she gets stuck into the material and wholeheartedly commits herself to all the gore, horror, dark comedy and all the physicality and emotion that the role demands.

As for the rest of the film, it’s an entertaining enough ride and with a 90 minute runtime, the pacing is kept consistent, there’s always something relevant and noteworthy happening on screen, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously or attempt to include any particular theme or message – it’s just a horror/comedy that does what it says on the tin. And with regards to the horror, though it doesn’t scare and will definitely not give you any nightmares, the violence is admirably bold and the film is a veritable bloodbath with a high body count that dispatches characters in many different imaginative and gruesome ways; a whole heap of blood is shed, there’s a ton of screaming and shouting, and I have to say that this is possibly the “gurgliest” horror film that I’ve yet seen – with many characters constantly gurgling blood as they slowly lose their lives! And as mmentioned before, Ready or Not doesn’t take itself too seriously and the filmmakers attempt to counterbalance the grizzly, squelchy horror with some outlandish comedy and while it doesn’t always work, the intention to both creep out and entertain the audience is an admirable touch.

But the film does indeed have problems and the biggest of these would have to be the script because although the story is more or less sound, the comedy often falls flat (though some of the actors’ performances also contribute to this) and the more emotionally charged scenes come across as mawkish and unnecessary. The problem with the film’s use of comedy is that the scriptwriters seem to think that constantly dropping F-bombs automatically results in comedy gold and as such, most of the comedy relies solely and heavily on bad language and there aren’t nearly enough genuinely funny jokes or gags to be found – just instances of the actors losing their s**t and letting out strings of curses; the jokes that do appear are mostly basic and ineffective, the overall comedy in this film is regrettably quite juvenile and – if I may be uptight and arrogant for a second here – only the easily impressed will get a laugh out of it (in the screening that I went to, Samara Weaving only had to say “F**k” and the audience broke out in hysterics!) The film also insists on including a few emotionally charged scenes, with several heart-to-hearts between family members and telling us how Grace grew up in foster care, but at the end of the day all of this is irrelevant, the writing in those scenes is particularly dodgy and oversentimental, and the scenes serve no important purpose – they just encourage eye-rolling.

The rest of cast is also a mixed bag, ranging from decent to actively awful; on the one hand, Adam Brody and Mark O’Brien are likeable and supportive as the down-to-earth and helpful brothers, Kristian Bruun is technically the funniest participant in the role of the wisecracking Fitch Bradley, and even Andie MacDowell comes off quite well as the initially sweet and supportive matriarch, going on to be the calmest member of the family as she brings order to some of the chaos. But on the other hand, a few of the other actors go over the top, turning the film into something far too silly and embarrassing, and the major culprints of this are Henry Czerny and Nicky Guadagni, who play the parts of the father and aunt; both are far too melodramatic, hammy, unrestrained, unfunny and just plain embarrassing and Guadagni is particularly unpleasant and wholly detrimental to the film – one of the worst performances of 2019 so far.

So that’s the scoop. Ready or Not has its problems but overall, I kind of liked it and thought it was pretty decent. It’s definitely a film that could have done so much more though and it may have been something truly special and unique if it had had a slightly better cast, toned down the silly, over-the-top humour, improved its script, and not relied so heavily on the swearing for comedic effect.

An entertaining and boldly violent horror/comedy that’s elevated by a committed and endearing performance from Samara Weaving, but is brought down by a few embarrassing performances and a lack of genuinely funny comedy.

★ ★ ★

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