GORE IN THE STORE
READY OR NOT ****
Directed by Matt Bettenilli-Olpin and Tyler Gillitt. Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’ Brien. Horror, USA, 95 mins, Cert 18
Released in the UK on September 27th by 20th Century Fox
The innocent game of hide and seek takes on altogether more lethal, treacherous and socio-economic spin in the second feature from directors Matt Battenilli-Olpin and Tyler Gillitt, otherwise known as Radio Silence. Mainly known for their impressive work in the V/H/S and Southbound anthologies they now make their mark with Ready Or Not, a glossy yet hard edged big studio release that confirms that their imaginatively nasty style easily translates to full length features with wit and verve.
Samara Weaving, an already familiar face in the genre due to her work on ASH VS EVIL DEAD and MAYHEM takes top billing in a role that should cement her scream queen status, makes for an instantly appealing heroine here as Grace. Marrying into the Le Domas family, a dynasty made rich and famous by their prodigious family game output Grace soon discovers that games are such a significant part of the family’s DNA that they are an integral part of the wedding night celebrations. As if such a ritual was not enough of a surprise already to Grace, the fact that she has to traverse the vast family home to find a suitable hiding place whilst unbeknownst to her the in-laws are arming themselves with all manner of lethal antique weaponry when counting down from one hundred may come as a bit of a shock.
Why the game is being played in such a lethal manner is best left to the viewer to discover for themselves. The script, by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, succeeds in keeping the audience guessing the reason for the family’s blood thirst. Alongside this is a finely etched family unit who have their own shifting allegiances. Such back biting and bitching is carried out with aplomb by an impressive cast including Andie McDowall, in a fine counterpart to her most famous role in her other wedding themed film, and Henry Czerny as her husband and family patriarch Tony, also hearkens back to his supreme heel turns of the 1990’s in such fare as MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER.
Just as impressive are the younger members of the Le Domas family, particularly Adam Brody as the self-loathing Daniel and Mark O’ Brien as the estranged Alex whose marriage to Grace has brought him back home much to his justifiably nervous displeasure. Weaving’s performance running the gamut from excited to puzzled to horrified, all the while getting covered more and more in blood and filth has the audience rooting for her throughout.
Grace, however identifiable she is, particularly when standing up to these hateful one percenters is not really given enough to do more than run and hide and run and hide until the films bloody climax. Even then she barely rises above the role of helpless heroine bearing witness to the diabolical machinations of the super-rich. Her increasing exasperation and anger go some way to alleviating such concerns but only just. One wishes that she was given more chances to show her mettle against her pursuers.
This one quibble aside READY OR NOT is still an impressive and entertaining horror, particularly one coming from such a big studio. The impressive run of big studio horror released this year is perhaps a signal of the strange and troubled times we find ourselves in right now, reflective of the 1970’s and ‘80’s, other examples of when horror cinema flourished. READY OR NOT is a particularly impressive example of this. What may have once been considered as a thriller wrapped in subversion now has the freedom to express itself as a vicious and bloody take down of the rich who, here in particular, have been laughing while hunting everyone else lower on the financial ladder the past few years scrambles for survival on top of their next pay cheque. It is a point here that is hammered home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, helped along with other forms of heavy weaponry onscreen, but in a manner that never fails to entertain without coming across as polemical.