As if in-laws weren’t anxiety-inducing enough, a handful of films have made sure that you don’t forget it. From Monster-In-Law to Get Out, hellish soon-to-be relatives are usually an on-screen treat and the stuff of nightmares. And while Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s Ready Or Not never reaches the same heights as Jordan Peele’s razor-sharp debut – and crucially never aspires to – it’s a taut horror-comedy that’s a devilish bit of fun.
Samara Weaving is a revelation as Grace, who is getting hitched to Alex (Mark O’Brien). She’s not in it for the money and the glory of marrying into the Le Domas family – the wealthy and eccentric dynasty that made its fortune with board games – but is tying the knot for true love. The wedding had to take place at the familial mansion as, at midnight on her wedding night, the whole family must sit down for a peculiar tradition: any new addition to the Le Domas clique must play a randomly selected game with the others. It could be checkers, charades or some unlucky newbie could pick the dreaded Hide & Seek card. You can guess which one the new bride picks, and thus begins a game that’s less family initiation and more deadly cat-and-mouse fight for survival.
The filmmakers know exactly how wafer-thin this Clue-meets-You’re Next premise is and it’s to their credit; they make the absolute most of it, embracing and lightly subverting genre conventions – specifically the Final Girl trope – as well as merging gory violence with comedy. For the most part, the balance is well handled and buttressed by the way Gillett and Bettinelli-Olpin navigate the single-location setting. Even when it risks overegging the Faustian pact pudding in the last act, Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy’s script commendably reels the narrative back, playing certain revelations for laughs rather than loaded twists. The end result satisfies as both a darkly comedic twist on The Most Dangerous Game, as well as a very gentle satire on class divisions.
It’s Weaving’s show but she isn’t alone, as Andie MacDowell has a great time as the all-smiles matriarch, and Nicky Guadagni is a riot as harbinger-incarnate old aunt Helene. Special mention must go to Melanie Scrofano, who stands out as Alex’s cocaine-fuelled sister who just can’t catch a break, whether it’s handling the weapons she’s given or dealing with her schlubby hubby. As great as they are, the cast can’t quite eclipse a few bum notes: some of the dialogue needed another run-through for the gag rate to be higher, and the filmmakers could have mined the “fucking rich people” class satire for so much more. Cult status may be out of reach, but there isn’t a dull moment in its 95 minutes. So, whether you’re in the mood for some schlocky thrills or trying desperately to convince your special someone that weddings are a terrible idea, look no further.
Ready Or Not | Directed by Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (US, 2019), with Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell. Starts Sept 26.
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