With the summer producing some outstanding horrors in Midsommar and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, one more horror film has arrived to help usher in the fall (and Halloween). Ready or Not, a project co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, is a horror-comedy that’s surprising as it is violent, but it’s yielded entertaining results.

Ready or Not stars Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni and John Ralston, and its events take place during a single day. The Le Domas family is celebrating a wedding – their son, Alex (O’Brien) is about to marry Grace (Weaving). The Le Domas family is wealthy, eccentric and a tad dysfunctional; dysfunctional enough for Alex to sever ties until now. What I can only guess is a lost ditch effort to reconnect, Alex introduces Grace to his family by marrying her at the mansion where he endured a considerably troubled childhood.

If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll quickly realize the Le Domas family is crazy beyond compare. They play a game of hide-and-seek, part of a family tradition, in order to officially welcome Grace into the family. But instead of playing it like normal people (let’s be honest, adults don’t play hide-and-seek) would, the family instead hunts Grace with intent to kill. Of course, all ‘hilarity’ ensues as Grace quickly learns that this version of hide-and-seek isn’t all fun and games.

This is clearly a life or death situation for Grace, but for audiences this is an opportunity to gasp, chuckle and openly root for her and against nearly everyone else. Played with fear, confusion, anger and determination by Samara Weaving, Grace may be a star-making turn. It helps that she’s pretty and bears a resemblance to fellow Aussie Margot Robbie, but regardless Weaving makes for a memorable final girl with natural survival instincts.

The rest of that cast play characters which are mostly one-note, playing up tropes that allow writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy to use violence and gore to add some sardonic wit to old family tropes (i.e., the family’s lone daughter is a daddy’s girl who cannot do anything independently; in turn the idea of killing someone, with competence, should be a real knee-slapper).

One character with any nuance or depth is Alex’s baby brother Daniel, played with hapless perfection by Adam Brody. Daniel is an indifferent drunkard, jaded from everything the world has to offer. Daniel’s sadly accepted he’s not a good person, although he can still discern good from bad. Although his personal conflict is a little too much he’s the film’s best written character. That makes him one to watch because he’s an unpredictable wildcard, or maybe he’s simply a catalyst used to move Ready or Not’s story along (likely both).

With that in mind, Ready or Not is predictable and has some lulls. But there’s an abundance of morbid fun which will leave you overlooking all of that.

Ready or Not’s tension builds with each passing minute and the final act goes in unexpected directions. That direction is something I shouldn’t discuss because (in my opinion) it’s a spoiler. It also seems over the top, but since this horror-comedy is constantly over the top its ending is fitting and enhances an already memorable film.

Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett, who served as directors in the horror anthology film V/H/S, are able to stretch their legs here. It looks and feels somewhat like the most sinister version of Clue; besides that this is a much-needed original work.

And if the idea of killing for sport isn’t enough, the directing pair uses their project to take shots at the supremely wealthy. Us plebeians detest the notion that the 1% can obtain anything and can get away with everything. This is an extreme form of comeuppance, so combined with Grace’s never-say-die (literally) attitude, Ready or Not is a true crowd pleaser that’s equal parts scary and funny, yet all the way fun and gory.

3.5 stars out of 5


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