Film Corner with Njal Heddle: Ready Or Not (2019)

FilmBride and Prejudiced and Purges.

In recent years, horror has made a wide variety of  moves. Some have become much more intense and gruesome, such as the work of Ari Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar), while others have, gasp, even been overtly, intentionally, funny (It, Get Out). But it’s been strangely hard to find a horror film of late which melds the two so seamlessly into one tone. That black humour that comes from, say, a maid getting her face shot off by accident. Enter Ready Or Not; while not revolutionising the genre, it proves itself a nifty little injection of humorous bile which recalls the ups and downs of work such as 2011’s You’re Next.

ready or not

Young newlywed Grace (Samara Weaving) is called to her husband Alex’s (Mark O’Brien) family’s abode to engage in an apparently friendly tradition of game-playing in order to fully be accepted amongst their ranks. However, after being tasked with a game of hide and seek, she soon finds that the family plan to hunt her down before dawn breaks.

It’s everyone who can stomach a relationship’s nightmare; meeting the in-laws. It’s a rite of passage as two people continue their stretch together, whether they like it or not. Ready Or Not plays on these fears and expertly crafts a charming, tense, funny, teeny-tiny little Purge movie out of it. Except, where The Purge films took themselves far too seriously, Ready Or Not revels in the ridiculousness of its story, and plays out the dark humour to the nth degree. Serving staff are dispatched by incompetent rich people a generous amount (one of them actually YouTubes how to use a crossbow) and children are punched in satisfying catharsis.

After surviving to the midpoint of the film, Grace stops to look at herself in the mirror, dress ripped, trainers tied, ammo belt draped across her chest, and rifle in hand. “Jesus”, she exclaims. A game of hide and seek has turned her into an iconic arse-kicking heroine. Of course it’s ridiculous, and it’s a joy to behold.

At the film’s heart is Samara Weaving who, after horror-stints in a couple of episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead and Netflix’s The Babysitter, proves herself a near-revelation. Weaving, almost a dead ringer for a younger Margot Robbie, expertly dishes out enough one-liners and snarky wit to make even Bruce Campbell sweat, with Grace becoming one of the most likeable characters in recent horror cinema. We really feel on her side and want to see her fight through these maniacal Trumpagogues to the finish line, and it is to Weaving’s credit that she has enough character to maintain this feeling to the end credits.

Elsewhere, the evil family turn in expertly menacing performances. Andie McDowell charms as a Alex’s supportive southern belle of a mother, before she starts hunting down her daughter-in-law with a cold cheeriness. Henry Czerny channels a similar energy, albeit with a more welcome shouty nature.

Ready Or Not isn’t perfect, indeed the last third seemingly goes for several moments where the film could end, but simply doesn’t, and a ham-fisted supernatural element threatens to derail it to even dafter heights. But it is one of the most engaging, darkly comic thrillers of the year. A bourgeois Purge to kill ninety minutes in the most enjoyable way.

Ready Or Not? Here it comes.


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