The summer movie season should be wrapping up, but since humanity is preparing to endure an endless summer, we’re still getting fun summer movies! Always focus on the sunny side. The latest distraction from dystopia is Ready or Not, a dark comedy about an ultra-wealthy family that maintains its status through lavish consumption and an utter disregard for human life—uh, okay; maybe this won’t take your mind off of the apocalypse after all.
Our protagonist in this trying time, a young woman named Grace, has just married into the prosperous Le Domas family. She’s a little thrown by the wealth disparity—she grew up in foster homes, while the Le Domas amassed a fortune with their board game empire—but she’s dedicated to joining her husband’s world, even if it means tolerating the pompous in-laws. Grace starts having second thoughts, though, when she falls prey to a Le Domas marriage tradition: a game of hide and seek where the family tries to kill their newest member.
The movie owns its silly premise, but it’s surprisingly conservative for a comedy about a rich murder cult. Ready or Not has a distinctly low-budget feel that affects the quality of its violence: the most gratuitous moments happen off-screen, as if the implied gorefest was too expensive to show in all its guts and glory. That changes in the movie’s final scenes, though—Ready or Not’s last act turns the craziness up to 11 and blows the rest of its budget in the process.
In terms of pacing and tone, the movie has a lot in common with Ti West’s The House of the Devil, another horror-tinged film that goes from 0 to 60 in its third act. Their 60mph sections kick off with practically the same shot. While this makes the last act particularly memorable—Ready or Not’s final moments are a burst of bloody fun—it makes the 0mph stretches feel a little too restrained. Ready or Not may get admirably weird with its ending, but it would’ve been even more enjoyable if it embraced its weirdness earlier, and got really weird to finish things off.
The movie’s intro and midsection are further diluted by some rough-around-the-edges filmmaking. The visual choices tend toward slightly off-putting: pans take a bit too long, the color grading is a bit too muddy, the cuts a bit too jarring. It’s nothing deal breaking, but Ready or Not surely could’ve benefitted from more time in the editing room. It’s like the movie is doing its best to look put-together after getting a little tipsy.
The central performance, though, is impeccably clear-eyed and sharp. Samara Weaving channels a cornered animal with disarming ferocity, making every fight or flight decision look like genuine instinct. I was scared to be in the room with her by the end. The supporting cast is up to snuff, too: the actors Le Domas are hyper-aware of the movie’s campy character and have fashioned performance ticks to match.
Ready or Not’s satire is mostly surface level—eat the rich before they eat you!—but there are attempts to contextualize its antagonists, however unconvincing they may be in the face of such overblown villainy. Not that the movie needs the satirical depth of Jonathan Swift, though. It’s a cracking good time as it is.