I’ve said it before and I will say it again. We live in the best decade of horror movies. Every year we get more quiet indie horror movies that revolutionize the genre and simultaneously offer bone-chilling scares while under the surface delivering a genuine poignancy. But while it’s no secret that I am infatuated with these movies like The Witch or Hereditary, sometimes you don’t want a movie to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes you just want the wheel. And while Ready or Not certainly doesn’t offer anything incendiary, it sure as hell is a great time at the theater.
Over the past few years, there has been something of a stealth genre in the horror scene. It seems like every six months another movie will come out that centers around a childhood game with a demonic twist. Now personally, I love this genre, as it churns out some of the worst, goofiest slumber party movies imaginable; I’m looking directly at you Truth or Dare. Between, Truth or Dare, Would You Rather, Wish Upon, Ouija, Escape Room, etc. it seemed like the genre wouldn’t run out of steam until it had exhausted every remaining game until they made a freeze tag movie in which a killer turns his victims into blocks of ice. Which brings us, of course, to Ready Or Not, Fox Searchlight’s slasher thriller take on the most universal of games, Hide and Seek. I was expecting yet another catastrophe, the kind that would crawl to the Netflix horror page to die. What I received instead, was one of the most fun theater experiences I’ve had all summer.
Directors Mark Betinelli-Opin and Tyler Gillett already have experience in the cult horror world having directed a segment in the 2012 anthology film V/H/S. Ready or Not probably won’t be a massive success, but I can guarantee it will build its own underground audience the same way V/H/S has, seeing just how entertaining it really is. The concept of a murderous game of hide and seek due to a pact with the devil is ridiculous, but it is outlined well enough that it makes perfect sense within the film’s internal logic. The narrative concept of mad rich people hunting others for sport goes back to The Most Dangerous Game, one of the most popular short stories in the English language. In other words, get over the silliness of the premise, because while the movie is truly hilarious at parts and has a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout, it still delivers some genuine suspense when it counts.
“In one scene you might think you’re watching Clue and in the next it might be Saw.”
Ready or Not doesn’t only owe inspiration to twentieth century literature, but also to a certain horror icon Sam Raimi. Like Raimi’s evil dead movies, Ready or Not has plenty of gore that is able to toe the line between upsetting and humorous. It really is a testament to the filmmakers how well the movie is able to ebb and flow between funny and frightening, as in one scene you might think you’re watching Clue and in the next it might be Saw. I would urge you to see this film if you are a horror fan, but only then. If you’re looking for a movie just to make you laugh, be prepared for some pretty visceral imagery. It doesn’t pull its punches, it just times them well so you’re ready for them. The cast really deserves praise as well, as this ensemble of character actors really makes this premise sing. Special note must be given to Henry Czerny, whose role as the maniacal patriarch trying to keep this tradition alive perfectly matches the tone of the film. And of course, a standing ovation to the star of the film and bonafide scream queen, Samara Weaving. I don’t blame you if you don’t remember her from the truly demented Netflix movie The Babysitter, but believe me, this is a debutante performance if I’ve ever seen one.
In conclusion, we need more movies like Ready or Not. Elevated horror is great, but in the gaps between our Babadooks and our Suspirias, it’s nice to have ninety minutes of pure entertainment to lighten the mood. You’ll laugh throughout, and cringe through your skin out of concern for our heroine. And I’ll be there opening night for Musical Chairs, coming to theaters January 2020.