For most brides, planning a wedding is an onerous process. There are a great many things that your ceremony is expected to showcase: a decadent cake, a perfectly-fitted dress, an appropriately adorable flower girl to trot down the aisle. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. But if you’re Grace (Samara Weaving), you’ll need to add a few more things to the list — namely, a bevy of shotgun shells and an ironclad will to survive.
“Ready or Not,” the new horror-comedy film from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, picks up during Grace’s opulent wedding to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien). Alex is the chief heir to his family’s fortune, amassed from a vast board-gaming dominion, leaving Grace, a lifelong foster child, desperate to fit in with the blue bloods. Grace quickly gets a chance to prove herself when Alex informs her of a generations-long family tradition, wherein all new members of the Le Domas clan are required to play a game on their wedding night. It’s only once Grace is in the midst of hide-and-seek that she realizes this iteration of the game is a little more lethal: Her eccentric new in-laws are trying to kill her before sunrise, and she’ll have to fight for her life if she wants to make it to her honeymoon.
“Ready or Not” reaps this crackpot premise for its maximum potential, packing the 90-minute runtime with smart scares and gory running gags (the best of which involves a crossbow). Screenwriters Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy have a strong handle on the art of the one-liner; each character is given a unique set of quips to deliver, and the film’s final line of dialogue is perhaps the best horror movie capper in recent memory.
The comedic through-line of “Ready or Not” is undoubtedly the exaggerated skewering of its wealthy antagonists — haughty, useless one-percenters whose biggest worry is slaughtering their victims before they have to head out for an 8 a.m. tee time. Much of this satire skips over subtlety in favor of the outlandishly campy — among other things, it’s implied the Le Domases made a literal deal with the devil for their riches — but this only serves to make the film more fun. Every element, down to Brian Tyler’s melodramatic, violin-laden score, builds upon the film’s giddy embrace of its own wackiness and seems specifically engineered for in-theater applause.
The horror-comedy’s cast of characters all seem, appropriately, like personifications of the stock players from a round of “Clue.” There’s the pompous patriarch (Henry Czerny), a sickeningly sweet would-be maternal figure (Andie MacDowell) and a conflicted devil-may-care brother-in-law (Adam Brody) — all played to perfection. But nobody shows off their chops more than Weaving as Grace, the irreproachable “final girl” whose effortless snark and unceasing scrappiness will undoubtedly cement her as a modern horror favorite. Watching Grace slowly rip apart the stifling, neck-high lace of her wedding dress as she sticks it to her bombastic opponents can only be described as badass. Her final look — a single-sleeved, knee-length, blood-stained, wedding gown accessorized with yellow Converse and a shotgun — is destined for the Halloween costume hall of fame. Weaving’s charming performance acts as a genuinely empowering center amid an otherwise farcical film, earning the audience’s affection and propelling the plot’s momentum forward.
It’s due to these strong performances, a sharply-written screenplay and a few well-timed “Here Comes the Bride” needle drops that the momentum of “Ready or Not” never slows. The film is a thoroughly entertaining and original entry into the horror-comedy canon, an irresistibly fun blend of B-movie bloodbaths and smart-alecky satire.
“Ready or Not” may not be the most romantic wedding movie ever made, but it certainly carries with it a handful of valuable lessons for future brides: Investigate potential in-laws for satanic cult involvement. Remember that hide-and-seek is not an appropriate wedding-night activity. And, above all else, never, ever marry rich.
Grace Orriss is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].