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Movie Review: 'Ready or Not' Is One of the Best Surprises of 2019

First time directing duo delivers surprise horror hit with 'Ready or Not.'

By Sean PatrickPublished 5 years ago 4 min read

Ready or Not stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a soon to be married woman. Grace is marrying Alex (Mark O'Brien) and marrying into Alex's incredibly rich family, the Le Domas family. The Le Domas Family are an odd group of gin soaked alpha males and domineering women who do not welcome outsiders with ease.

Needless to say, Grace is nervous about fitting in with her new extended family. Grace has no family of her own, having grown up in foster homes, so her trepidation is mixed with a poignant desire to connect. As strange as the family is, Grace is excited when Alex's mom, Becky (Andie McDowell) appears to take to her, even if she does appear to have hit the champagne quite a bit before the wedding.

Alex's brother Daniel (Adam Brody) also appears supportive, though also a tad creepy and too friendly. Like his mother, Daniel has been hitting the open bar before even most of the guests have arrived. Less accepting of Grace joining the family is Alex's father, Tony (Henry Czerny). Tony assumes any woman entering his family is after the family fortune and he has especially unkind thoughts toward someone with Grace's background.

The worst of the Le Domas clan however is Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) who makes no effort not to display her disdain for poor Grace. Aunt Helene is perhaps the finest creation of Ready or Not, a character whose hair and makeup and the manner in which she is portrayed creates a tension that runs throughout the movie and even before actress Nicky Guadagni reveals a super-sinister accent and biting line delivery that even those of us in the audience can be forgiven from recoiling from.

The Le Domas family has a tradition for everyone who marries into the family. The tradition is centuries old and has rituals and rites that new family members are required to get on board with. The most important tradition is playing a game at midnight on the night of the wedding. The Le Domas family made its fortune in board games and games of chance and thus a gaming tradition makes some sense.

Grace is given a box from which she draws a card. The card says 'Hide and Seek' and the game is on. Unfortunately, this is no classic kids game. The Le Domas family plays Hide and Seek just a little bit differently. Though she doesn't know it, Grace will be hiding for her her life as the family stalks her through their opulant mansion, weapons in hand.

Ready or Not is not the first movie to exploit the eccentricities of the super-rich for satirical fun, but it is among the most skillful exploitations of such tropes. Directed by newcomer duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Ready or Not is the rare modern horror movie that doesn't rely on jump scares constantly goosing the audience.

The makers of Ready or Not have crafted a horror movie of genuine suspense and excitement and populated by terrific characters. I mentioned the character of Aunt Helene before and I can't stop raving about what a wonderfully unique character she is. Actress Nicky Guadagny is an awesome find who had not been on the big screen since 2007's Lars and the Real Girl.

Guadagny's role isn't big but she makes an impact right away with a big laugh in her first scene and keeps delivering off-kilter moments throughout Ready or Not with her razor tongue and the sharp ax she carries throughout the game portion of the movie. Guadagny is exceptional whether delivering cutting insults or cutting blows.

The rest of the cast is equally as much fun as Guadagny, with impactful moments from Kristian Braun as a feckless distant family member, Elyse Leveque as a cold hearted, icy veined wife who has really taken to the family traditions, and veteran character actor Henry Czerny who cuts an imposing figure as the family patriarch.

This is a spectacular cast in a spectacular setting. Directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett found an exceptional setting for the action of Ready or Not. The opulent mansion set of Ready or Not is like an extra character in the movie, an expansive and labyrinthine milieu perfect for suspense. The set of Ready or Not is a head spinning maze of backdoors and secret hallways and seemingly impenetrable wrought iron gates of ancient proportion.

The detailed set design and the wonderful cast brought together with a pair of exceptional first time directors have made for one of the best surprises of 2019. I haven't seen a horror movie this refreshingly new and unique since Happy Death Day, which has since spawned an equally terrific sequel and a bright new movie star in Jessica Rothe.

I would not be surprised if Ready or Not star Samara Weaving followed in Rothe's rising star footsteps. While the nature of Ready or Not doesn't invite a sequel in the way Happy Death Day did for Rothe, Weaving should nevertheless garner similar attention as a movie star of the future. Here's hoping she finds more roles as clever and exciting as Grace in Ready or Not.

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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