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Review: Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not (2019)

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Premise: A woman from a middle class background (Samara Weaving) marries the son of a wealthy but eccentric family. The night of their wedding, the family plays a game of hide and seek that’s a ruse to sacrifice the bride in a demonic ritual.

What Works: Ready or Not is a smart and playful mix of action and horror and humor. That balance is quite delicate but the filmmakers strike it and Ready or Not is comparable to films like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. Matched poorly, violence and comedy may cancel each other out but done well, as it is here, the violence and comedy enhance one another. Ready or Not may not be a full-fledged satire but it is satirical and the violence and comedy have a political edge. This is very much a movie of the moment. It’s about an underclass character who discovers that the wealth of a superrich family is predicated on demonic power; the family literally performs ritualistic sacrifices to ensure their continued prosperity. The political aspect of Ready or Not is unlikely to be lost on anyone but it is nestled inside of a familiar family story. At its most basic level, Ready or Not has similarities to Meet the Parents. The story is about the anxieties of marriage as a young woman frets about fitting into her spouse’s family. That’s a real and relatable condition that is contorted into absurdity. The contrast between the violence and the humor is very funny but the filmmakers show good judgement as to when to play for laughs and when to play it straight and gore is used judiciously. Ready or Not is a sharp and smart story. The cast is small and each of the characters is distinct. Everyone is given at least one moment in which they reveal something more about themselves and the cast is great. Ready or Not is also smart about the occult aspects of the story. The family is determined to sacrifice the bride because they believe something terrible will happen to them if they don’t. Whether the supernatural is real or just a delusion is ambiguous and drawn out perfectly.

What Doesn’t: Ready or Not begins with a prologue sequence that announces the family’s twisted secret to the viewer. The scene pays off later but it lets the secret go instead of building to a revelation later. As Ready or Not enters its final stretch the filmmakers make one terrible storytelling choice. Without giving it away, one of the characters suddenly behaves in a manner completely out of order with everything that the filmmakers have established. Good character writing is consistent; protagonists and even supporting characters can change over the course of a story but that change must be credible and consistent with the character’s other choices and desires. That’s different from what happens at the end of Ready or Not; this is an example of filmmakers trying to outsmart the audience and just confusing them instead. The movie survives its mistake but it’s an obvious misstep in an otherwise smartly written story. 
Bottom Line: A few storytelling missteps notwithstanding, Ready or Not is a shrewd mix of horror and comedy. This film is smart and well produced and has a wicked sense of humor.

Episode: #764 (September 1, 2019)