Joe’s Take

Late August usually isn’t a time audiences can go to the theater and seek quality in the new releases, but “Ready or Not” breaks that trend.

With its dark humor, solid acting and rapid pace, “Ready or Not” is one of the biggest surprises of the summer.

Leading woman Samara Weaving (Hugo Weaving’s niece) who plays Grace shines brightest among the actors and hopefully this performance boosts her career opportunities. The Margot Robbie/Emma Stone lookalike commands the screen and shows her range and charisma similar to the Oscar-nominated and winning actresses. She evolves throughout the film in a way the audience can relate.

Adam Brody also stands out in “Ready or Not” during a strong 2019 for the actor, who had a good role in “Shazam!” earlier this year. He shines as the conflicted brother in a role that felt very natural for him.

Henry Czerny embraced the tone of the film perfectly as the father. The veteran actor understood what kind of movie he was in and added to the dark humor.

All the actors, including Andie MacDowell, settle in nicely to their roles, which lifts the humor.

The script is mostly strong as the balance of humor and horror is perfect, but some character decisions in the third act disappoint and the end was a little redundant. All in all, though, it was a solid script with loads of entertainment.

The 1-hour, 35-minute runtime also really helped the film, as it pulls the audience right into the action. It gave the viewer just enough information to understand what was happening, but not too much to make the audience think the film is taking itself more seriously than it actually is.

The film doesn’t tell much about the backstory of the main character Grace. That works for the film because Grace is supposed to be the audience. The viewer learns enough backstory about the family Grace tries to join, but the audience sees the rest of the film through her eyes. The moviegoer understands how he or she would feel in the situation of the main character and that’s all this movie needed to accomplish. Adding a full backstory to a few characters would extend the film to 2 hours and ruin its pace. The audience didn’t need to know any of it and it was refreshing the filmmakers understood that.

For better or worse, this movie has small pockets of extreme violence and gore. It definitely works for the film, but audiences should be aware before seeing the movie that it is quite graphic.

“Ready or Not” melds a few genres together to create an oddly fun film with gruesome violence and laugh-out-loud dark humor. The filmmakers and actors understood exactly what movie they were trying to make, which proved the film’s greatest strength. The script comes off the rails a bit in the third act, but for the most part this is a rare late-summer gem.

4 out of 5 stars

From left, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny, Adam Brody, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, Melanie Scrofano, and Kristian Bruun in “Ready or Not.”

Rebecca’s Take

The honeymoon is over quickly in “Ready or Not,” a black comedy about a bride trying to survive a deadly game of hide-and-seek with her rich in-laws on her wedding night. The fun horror flick serves up sharp humor, wry social commentary and bloody kills in this twisted version of the game “Clue.”

In “Ready or Not,” the wealthy Le Domas family has amassed their fortune by building a boardgame empire. Their youngest but estranged son, Alex (Mark O’Brien), returns to the family’s estate to marry Grace (Samara Weaving), an orphaned young woman who is excited to finally have a family of her own. The Le Domas family includes Alex’s disapproving father Tony (Henry Czerny), welcoming mother Becky (Andie MacDowell), alcoholic brother Daniel (Adam Brody), erratic sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and scowling aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni).

After Alex and Grace tie the knot, the new bride learns she must participate in the eccentric family’s ritual of playing a game on the couple’s wedding night. When Grace draws the card for hide-and-seek, the tradition turns deadly. Alex’s family must hunt and kill Grace before sunrise – otherwise, the family’s future and fortune is at stake. Drawn into her worst nightmare, Grace must outrun and outwit her new family if she hopes to live another day.

It’s game on as “Ready or Not” thrives on atmosphere. The Le Domas family’s historic mansion offers a labyrinth of hiding places, including dark corridors, nooks and crannies. Bathed in soft browns and shadows against the glow of low lights, the house’s interior contrasts with the unmistakable white of Grace’s wedding dress. The tension builds as the bride struggles to move unseen throughout the home, which has become her prison.

In a sly commentary on the 1 percent, the film pits Grace against the upper class. This isn’t just a fight for survival – this is class warfare in action. As one family member acknowledges “the rich are different,” Grace is forced to play their cruel game to show herself worthy of their ranks.

And it’s a game they themselves are unprepared for. While other new additions to the family have played harmless games including “Old Maid,” the rarely drawn hide-and-seek card forces the family into kill mode. Members are fitted with archaic weapons – from axes to a bow and arrow – causing them to get their hands dirty. The game strips the family of their pretense, pushing them to acknowledge their own greed to maintain their lifestyle.

Embracing its simple premise, “Ready or Not” rolls the die in straddling the line of horror and comedy, and it works. The film draws laughs when one family member retreats to the bathroom to watch a YouTube tutorial on how to use a crossbow. And another snorts cocaine to make killing easier, which leads to some messy and gruesome kills – a few of which may leave audience members queasy. It all builds up to a bonkers finale, which pays off despite a too-quick character turn in the third act.

“Ready or Not” depends upon the performance of its central protagonist to hold its story together. As Grace, Weaving is sarcastic, funny and sympathetic as the hunted bride. The film doesn’t delve much into her background, which makes it difficult to connect with Grace at first and discern her survival skills. But Weaving balances the terror of Grace’s situation with a reluctance to kill unless necessary, ultimately becoming a character to root for. However, the character is often shown to be more reactionary than proactive, which limits her agency.

At a fast-paced 95 minutes, “Ready or Not” is efficient in doling out its action. But the film skimps on fleshing out its characters as a result. Czerny and MacDowell mainly chew the scenery as Grace’s bloodthirsty in-laws. As Alex, O’Brien displays a little more depth as the prodigal son who tries to help his bride.

The most fully sketched character is Daniel, who appears conflicted by his family’s brutal traditions. Brody gives a standout performance as he wavers between loyalty to his family or Grace. Between “Ready or Not” and his role in “Shazam!” earlier this year, Brody seems headed toward a career resurgence.

An unexpected treat at the end of summer, “Ready or Not” establishes itself as a worthy player on the board of this year’s crop of horror movies.

3.5 out of 5 stars