When done right, there is little better in the world of film than a black comedy, especially in the horror genre.
“Ready or Not” stars Samara Weaver as a new bride who marries into a very rich family, only to find out they are hunting her with lethal intentions during an annual game of hide and seek. Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell also star and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett direct.
Some of my favorite films are horror-dark comedies, including the “Scream” series, “Cabin in the Woods” and “You’re Next,” so I am always down for a movie that can ride the line between intense and funny. There are points of “Ready or Not” that find the line and toe it for a while, but it never is able to keep on the path for long enough to be memorable. Still, there is fun to be had.
A film like this, much like “You’re Next,” will be judged off (1) how well the humor lands, (2) how clever the kills are, and (3) how well the twists handled. And it’s honestly a bit of a mixed bag here. As far as the comedy goes, I think I only really laughed two or three times, but there were plenty of obvious attempts at humor by the filmmakers. More often than not the joke-jokes do not work and seem out of place, or come at the expense of someone over-acting or breaking character. This is also the type of film where characters use swear words way more than normal people, and in situations that just seem unnatural (“congrats on getting married, f—k face” says one brother to another). The darker, subtle moments of humor are actually entertaining though, mostly from Adam Brody’s dry wit (he’s so very good here).
The kills are, fine, however many of them were shown in the trailer so the shock value (whether it be thrills or laughs) are ruined because you know how and when something is coming. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the trailer (I saw it probably a half-dozen times before every R-rated film the last two months) then you will likely find the film much more enjoyable, because otherwise much of the surprise is taken away before you even step inside the door.
The film doesn’t really have any true twists, but some expository dialogue between characters every now and again is (when not annoyingly spoon-feeding) entertaining from the world-building aspect. The whole reason the family is playing the deadly game of hide and seek isn’t revolutionary, but it lends itself to a climax that is by far the best part of the film (it finally found the tone it was struggling to balance the first 85 minutes).
Parts of “Ready or Not” feel under-baked or underwritten, whether it be a visual gag, a punchline or the amount of clever kills, but there are sections throughout that have the right level of thrills and camp and the film is at least self-aware most of the time. I doubt it will develop any sort of cult following but this has “turn it on Netflix and show it to some friends one night” written all over it, and that isn’t an insult.
Critic’s Rating: 6/10