READY OR NOT is the latest film from Radio Silence (Southbound, Devil’s Due, V/H/S), comprised of directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet, along with executive producer Chad Vitella. The film centers around a beautiful bride who, instead of celebrating her wedding day, must fight for survival against her in-laws in a violent game of Hide and Seek. The movie stars Samara Weaving (Mayhem, The Babysitter), Mark O’Brien (City on a Hill), Henry Czerny (Sharp Objects), Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Adam Brody (Shazam!).
Grace (Samara Weaving) is about to marry the love her life, Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), after a whirlwind 18-month courtship. Though she’s looking forward to a life with Alex, she’s hoping that his family, which made their fortune on board games, will accept her as the newest Le Domas. After the nuptials take place, Alex informs Grace that his eccentric family is bound by a time-honored tradition of playing a game at midnight to welcome a new family member into the film. Her father-in-law (Henry Czerny) beckons Grace to choose a card from a deck that will determine the game and, unfortunately, unbeknownst to her, she pulls the rare “Hide and Seek” card. Given only a few minutes head start, Grace must find a place to hide while the family seeks her out. However, Grace quickly learns that this isn’t a normal game of “Hide and Seek” but a game of life and death.
What I love so much about this movie is that it’s a non-stop rollercoaster ride that deftly combines horror and comedy. Radio Silence was able to effectively bring to life Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy’s script in a way that allowed for an engaging viewing experience. Furthermore, this is a film that felt like it had real stakes, allowing for moments of genuine tension that left me on the edge of my seat. The fun really begins once the game is in play which gives the viewer an opportunity to not only experience the terror that Grace feels but also the perspective of the Le Domas family, and their individual reasoning, or hesitations, for the game. I’m being purposefully vague on what those reasons are because that was one of the best surprises I had going into this film. That said, I think the biggest accomplishment with READY OR NOT is making a kid’s game feel so frightening and deadly.
Along with the superb writing and directing, it felt like the cast was not only having a blast but giving 100% to their role. Genre favorite Samara Weaving does Grace justice as a character who shows not only her strengths but also her weaknesses in a way that is realistic and relatable. She does whatever is needed to fight off her assailants but there’s never a moment that made me question her skill set. She combines feelings of fear with the overwhelming desire to survive in such a way that you can’t help but cheer her on. Adam Brody, as Daniel Le Domas, was a welcome surprise as Grace’s new brother-in-law who appears less than thrilled with the whole family tradition of “hunting humans”. Brody’s character was probably my favorite due to how his storyline plays out and the internal struggle he has with his relationship with his family. Aside from Grace, Daniel is really the only other character to fully address the fucked up nature of the unfolding events – though that doesn’t necessarily stop him from participating. I also have a lot of thoughts in regards to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), Grace’s husband, but for the sake of this review being spoiler-free, I won’t say much other than the feeling of sweet satisfaction at the end. Lastly, I have to mention Andie MacDowell, who in her first horror role absolutely kills it as the matriarch of the Le Domas family. She is cunning and manipulative but there are moments that peek out which indicates she does have a softness deep inside.
When it comes to the overall production design, READY OR NOT is a vision. For an interior designer such as myself, I was blown away by the mansion and the beautiful Gothic architecture which played off nicely against all the horror. The mansion is a character itself with all the secret doorways and hidden passageways, but it also gives a sense of the film being a period piece though it’s set during modern times. Additionally, the practical effects were damn near perfect which is a feat in and of itself considering what happens during the climax. However, one of my favorite parts of the film was the deterioration of Grace’s wedding dress which correlated precisely to the danger she was facing. Additionally, it becomes a symbol of strength as she begins to transform into a newer version of herself. To me, that was one of the most powerful aspects of the movie.
In all, READY OR NOT is easily one of the best films of the year. Samara’s performance is career-defining and if you weren’t familiar with her before you will be now. Though the story of hunting humans isn’t new, the writer’s at least gave it a fresh, fun spin on how the rich like to do things differently. If anything, READY OR NOT will make you question ever playing games with your in-laws in the future. READY OR NOT is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD and includes special features such as Audio Commentary by Radio Silence and Samara Weaving as well as a featurette that dives into the making of READY OR NOT.