The first half of Ready or Not struggles to elevate itself above its premise, with the script doing little to separate itself from a routine horror flick set up. Grace makes for a typically oblivious hero as she prepares to join the Le Domas family by marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien) in their enormous mansion.
This portion of the film feels like eating your vegetables before digging into dessert, with Grace just missing a few creepy glances from the family that somehow narrowly evade her sight. Though you expect a period of set up in any horror film before things really go off the rails, with this premise and the comedy that follows, Ready or Not would have been a more complete package had the filmmakers added more of the fun that comes later in the movie to its first half.
But Ready or Not consistently improves upon itself as it goes along. The story adopts a much more playful tone when Grace is made to play hide and seek with Alex’s parents, siblings, and spouses. She’s made to think is tradition when someone new enters the family tree, but after Alex’s family all arm themselves with weapons from a century ago, Grace witnesses a murder that marks a clear turning point in the storytelling. From that moment on, it’s war. Yet it still takes a bit for Ready or Not to be having as much fun as it has the potential to, from a sparing use of gore to early jokes about how over-the-top this story is that don’t quite land.
The third act is where Ready or Not lives up to that promise of its premise. The movie becomes a blissful marriage of blood and comedy that takes the story to its delightfully illogical extremes and just goes ham. This is where Weaving really comes into her own as well, raising Grace from a traumatic low-point to vengeful high that sets the story on a course for its blood-soaked finale. Her story is predictable, but when it counts most, the comedy is usually there to heighten its most obvious moments to something memorable.
The quality of the rest of the cast’s performances vary. Not that Ready or Not needed to gun for Oscars, but a few important roles here simply don’t sync with the tone the film is trying to achieve. Strong turns come from Adam Brody and Andie MacDowell as Grace’s brother- and mother-in-law, respectively, but it’s hard not to wonder what a few more heavyweight actors might have done with the rest of the Le Domas family.
Cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz shoots Ready or Not with a gorgeous, soft hue typical of a period-set chamber drama. The lush set design in front of the camera is up to snuff, too, as is the borderline gothic wedding dress Grace wears for the entirety of the film. It is, overall, rather well made for a fairly small 95-minute horror film, and that makes a big difference as it ramps up to its bigger, genre-specific payoffs.
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