Ready or Not

Ready or Not ★★★★½

The guys at Radio Silence have finally put it all together. Kicking around with solid segments on well-regarded horror anthologies V/H/S and Southbound, and after getting a misfire out of their system with Devil's Due, here we have the feature length project we've been waiting for with them. Ready or Not feels like the realization of long-simmering potential, although I wasn't expecting Radio Silence to develop into something like a next-generation Sam Raimi.

Like a good Raimi film, this is horror in its fun aspect. I had a fantastic time watching this, and it looks like quite a few others did as well. The marriage of the lighthearted excitement of an action movie with the intense violence of the horror genre really gives this a soul. Probably best expressed through the running gag where the twitchy Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) keeps killing the servants by accident, which delivers some of the best laughs and some of the gnarliest gore. Especially when she's trying to reassure her maid that everything's going to be fine as she's gurgling blood from a grievous wound.

Samara Weaving further solidifies her rep as someone who can anchor a horror film, and she does good work here. She's got these big, expressive eyes that give you the element of vulnerability that all good scream queens have, and she's got enough physicality and grit to round out the package. You can see a little of her uncle's more manic energy flowing through her at times, but whatever it is animating her she can rev things up or down as needed. Her character was well-written as an intelligent person who goes along with an increasingly weird family's customs for believable reasons, and she really translates it well on the screen. I'll be seeking out Samara Weaving more actively from now on.

Great cast all around, really. Andie MacDowell, you are always welcome at my table. And behind her is a fantastic assemblage of veteran talent, and the guys at Radio Silence really impressed me with their ability to maximize the hell out of their casting budget. A ton of people with solid resumes (Nicky Guadagni, Mark O'Brien, Melanie Scrofano, Elyse Levesque) but not a whole lot of glitzy reputation, creating a roster of memorable characters. Aunt Helene especially steals her scenes as the axe-wielding traditionalist, and "brown-haired niece...you continue to exist..." is one of the better lines I've heard.

The careful attention to narrative really helps this feel polished. One of the bigger sins in action/horror is the inflicting of debilitating injuries on characters that are later ignored, but Radio Silence really sells the violence well by putting bodily harm in its proper place. Grace gets a hole blown in her hand midway through, and it really changes how she gets around the rest of the movie. You can really feel how hideous an injury like that is by the way she cradles her arm around for the rest of the film, making something like climbing a ladder far more difficult. And then when she impales her hand again on a rusty nail in the same spot, what would be a more prosaic moment in another film is a heart-stopping moment of pain and anguish here. The violence is played without hesitation for laughs through much of the film, but it's not low-stakes at all. It's a sign of the craftsmanship on display, which includes well-earned character development, realistic (as far as that goes in a murder mansion story) decisions by those characters, and a careful buildup of tension that leads to a fantastic ending and a killer final line.

This is a memorably solid, and a great time in a theater. I'm glad this has done so well at the box office. Should be the start of a new and successful phase for these guys.

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