In previous articles, I’ve stated my love for smaller, indie studios and movies, because of the lack of cynicism in their work and their genuine interest in pursuing their artistic goals, meanwhile contributing to their industry with a unique perspective on a subject or means to execute a concept, without the more egregious, “business” elements that plague more mainstream, major efforts; long story short, less budget usually means less financial risk, which usually leads to – at the very least – interesting results. Ready or Not is that type of movie, but it has less in common with ground-breaking dramas or genre-defining indie classics, and more in common with sleeper hits/ cult-classics such as Brawl in Cell block 99; it’s a “fun-first”, well-made, entertaining movie, rather than a must-see event.
That’s not a knock against it; in fact, it is one of the most refreshing elements of this movie, which says a lot considering this is a movie that blends adventure, comedy, and horror seamlessly. It’s not wholly original (I won’t say which movie inspires it because if you’ve seen it, then it will spoil this movie) but it still manages to distinguish itself from that movie in some interesting and fun ways. The premise of Ready or Not is that Grace – a woman who is about to marry her fiancé – must play a game in the large estate of her future-in-laws; obviously, things go bad, but that’s about as much as I’m going to say about the plot. Story is not the selling point of the movie, anyway; it’s got a pretty good theme going, but it’s not executed any better or offers any different takes/ insights than other similarly themed movies. What it does offer is interesting characters and a subversion of expectations on how the movie will play out; although it is a movie about a lone character trying to survive the night against an overwhelming number of people in an environment she does not know, it finds ways to make that premise deceiving and the ensuing events endearingly fun and engaging.
In particular, the comedic elements of this movie are executed to perfection, partly because of the witty writing and solid direction, and partly because of Samara Weaving’s excellent performance. She understands where the movie’s strong points are, but she also understands that this is a movie that has an underlying feminine theme to it and provides some solid acting when it comes to being an over-the-top character for comedic purposes, but also when it comes to the dramatic and tension-building elements; the movie’s plot may come from tired horror clichés and the fun may come from the willingness to parody those clichés, but the characters, their motivations, and their personalities come from the writers’ focus on the main character and her – predominantly female – issue and need to resolve it. Long story short, Samara has to carry this movie on her shoulders and does so brilliantly, whether it is her comedic chops or her understanding on how to deliver an over-the-top character with the depth and subtlety she was written with.
Beyond all of that though, what I found refreshingly great about Ready or Not is that the movie knows what it is about, knows what it has to do to be a great movie, and does not overstay its welcome or stray into being something it is clearly not; clocking in at an hour and 35 minutes, it is short but densely packed, entertaining but not shallow, it uses its claustrophobic setting to create drama and tension without feeling repetitive or dull, it tells an interesting and poignant story without feeling pretentious or too serious about it. It is a reminder that movies can be well shot, directed, acted, cast, and produced without needing to be targeted at pleasing everyone or being everyone’s new favorite movie/franchise; they can simply be a fun concept that a lot of talented people worked really hard to create, and (hopefully) a lot of people will see and have fun for that hour and half, contemplate for a bit, and then move on to the next thing. In this modern industry of franchises, sequels and prequels, blockbusters and indies, it’s really nice to be reminded, by a movie like Ready or Not, that some movies can simply be created to not fit into any of these categories; they can be created to simply be a good time.