Ready or Not

by Toby Woollaston

ronVerdict: A raucous dark comedy that feels like a game of Cluedo played in an abattoir.

Latest in the “shall we play a game?” horror sub-genre pits a young bride against a murderous hoard of well-to-do American aristocratic toffs. Directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettenelli-Olpin, who together previously brought us a slew of B-grade horror (V/H/S, Devil’s Due) have outdone themselves this time with a slasher that is as funny as it is … uhh … splattery.

Unsurprisingly, Ready or Not isn’t heavy on plot. Grace, played with a lively energy by Samara Weaving (a sort of Margot Robbie lite), is a young woman on her wedding night who is surprised by her new in-laws with a postnuptial board game—a strange family tradition, but hey, whatever gets you past Go. In good humour, she follows along and picks from a selection of games; Chess, Checkers etc, even (gasp!) Hide and Seek—“just don’t pick the wrong one”. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that, yes, she picked the wrong one. I guess two hours of watching them play Chess wouldn’t make much of a movie.

So, the game is afoot (or is that a decapitated hand!?), with things getting a bit bloody in parts as Grace is hunted down by a bunch of hoity-toity in-laws turned killers (including a very insidious Andy MacDowell). Thankfully, they’re all rather incompetent and what might’ve become a slasher film trying to take itself seriously, instead appears to knowingly revel in the ridiculousness of it all. Ready or Not is raucous fun and Messrs Gillett and Bettenelli-Olpin seem to know how to balance their gore with generous dollops of humour.

It’s not all hack’n’humour, though. Ready or Not has a few salient comments to make on classism, but to suggest they’re said with any subtlety would be the understatement of the century. When Grace screams at her assailants as “F**ken rich people!”, you kinda know who the baddies are.

As the bungling archetypes run riot within the Agatha Christie-styled mansion, it’s clear that this is a horror that knows its strengths and undeniably operates best in its more playful moments. The result is loads of bloody fun.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.