Should I watch wedding night survival horror 'Ready Or Not'?

Tom Beasley
Samara Weaving is all smiles, for a short time, in horror movie 'Ready Or Not'. (Credit: Eric Zachanowich/20th Century Fox)

‘Should I watch?’ provides a rounded look at one of the biggest films of the week. Drawing on critical responses and audience scores, this should help you decide whether it’s for you or not.

What's it all about?

It's the wedding night from hell, basically. Grace is marrying into the Le Domas family of board game entrepreneurs and, as part of her initiation into the family, she must play a randomly selected game chosen from a deck of cards. Previous spouses of family members have had innocuous games of chess or Old Maid, but Grace picks the card marked "Hide and Seek". This card is different from the others, with the family taking up arms in the belief that they now must find and kill her before dawn, otherwise something awful will happen to them.

Suddenly, watching your drunk second cousin butcher New York, New York on karaoke doesn't sound so bad on the scale of disastrous nuptials.

This is a blood-soaked horror tale that would once have done huge numbers on the 'midnight movie' circuit. It has been given an 18 certificate by the BBFC for "strong bloody violence and gory images", which is not an understatement. On the running time side of things, it's a brisk 95 minutes. Enough time to get through your popcorn, but not enough that the onslaught of bloodshed becomes too much.

Who’s in it?

The leading lady is Samara Weaving, who delivers a committed and physical performance despite wearing a wedding dress for the entire movie. She’s not a particularly well known performer on the big screen as yet, but she appeared in Netflix horror movie The Babysitter and portrayed the awkward Penelope in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Weaving also played Indi Walker in Aussie soap Home and Away for four years. Her next major role is as the daughter of Alex Winter’s Bill Preston in the upcoming comedy sequel Bill & Ted Face the Music. If you recognise the name, it’s because she shares her surname with her uncle: antipodean acting legend Hugo Weaving.

Elsewhere, the most recognisable name in the cast is Andie MacDowell, who is best known for her work in some of the most famous romantic comedies of all time. She played opposite Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

Behind the camera is the horror trio Radio Silence, comprising Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella — with the latter credited in an executive producer role due to union rules. The trio previously made supernatural horror Devil’s Due, anthology film Southbound and a segment of the collaborative anthology V/H/S.

What other films is it like?

Ready or Not owes its heritage to a rich vein of slasher movies and the archetype of the ‘Final Girl’ — or ‘Final Woman’, as Weaving would rather say. As such, it shares DNA with movies like Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, in which a female protagonist turns the tables on those stalking her.

Samara Weaving plays a bride experiencing the weeding night from hell in 'Ready or Not'. (Credit: Eric Zachanowich/20th Century Fox)

On a more recent note, the confined setting within a single, opulent house recalls Adam Wingard’s enjoyable slasher You’re Next and the contrast between heavily armed pursuers and a protagonist fighting on the back foot has elements of the first, claustrophobic entry in Blumhouse’s Purge franchise.

For those with a more obscure cinematic taste, there are several shots that echo the woman in a fight for survival aesthetic of Coralie Fargeat’s French horror Revenge. Like Grace, that film’s protagonist is able to turn her typically feminine clothing into a weapon against a group of awful men.

It’s worth noting too that Ready or Not is as funny as it is scary, with Grace a delightfully acerbic leading lady. So it’s partly Shaun of the Dead, but it maintains a fiercely violent, scary feel that positions its tone closer to something like Scream.

What are the critics saying?

Based on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the praise has been almost universal for Ready or Not, with 88% of critics counted by the site classified as providing positive reviews.

The film has been out in the USA for a few weeks and has already been a solid success, with its global box office total already passing $40m (£32.5m) from a budget of just $6m (£4.9m). On an audience response level, 78% of members of the public verified by Rotten Tomatoes were positive in their review of the film and exit polls conducted by company Cinemascore gave the film an encouraging average grade of B+.

The Le Domas family play a murderous game in 'Ready or Not'. (Credit: Eric Zachanowich/20th Century Fox)

The Good

“Perhaps most importantly, it’s just a corker of a horror-comedy, with memorable characters and laugh out loud set pieces and gruesome acts of violence and delightfully wicked performances.”

— William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting (four and a half stars)

“The shocks and laughs keep coming as the film progresses and the filmmakers know just when to pull back on the violence and bring in the laughs – and vice versa – in order to keep audiences engaged. It’s genuinely tense and scary in parts and then utterly bonkers and laugh-out-loud just moments later, upping both the anticipation and enjoyment levels throughout.”

— Amanda Keats, HeyUGuys (five stars)

The Bad

“It boasts a delicious premise, a tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign and aesthetically it’s one of the rare studio horror films of late that has a distinctive style. But it’s this heady initial promise that makes the ensuing mess such a crushing disappointment, an opulent feast that’s rotten on the inside.“

— Benjamin Lee, The Guardian (two stars)

“Matching motifs of Midsommar — a feckless young man and a sadistic cult — this horror comedy muffs both the humour and the drama.”

— Richard Brody, The New Yorker (no star rating)

Samara Weaving as Grace in horror movie 'Ready Or Not'. (Credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Middling

“The lurch towards an over-the-top CGI-heavy finale doesn’t entirely satisfy, but Ready Or Not otherwise feels fresh, funny and absolutely crazy.”

— James Mottram, Total Film (three stars)

“The film is a great showcase for all of its actors, though some characters are more straightforward clichés than the others. Adam Brody once again plays on his boy-next-door image with delightful results, as he so wonderfully did in Jennifer’s Body, while Andie MacDowell shines in a rare villainous role.“

— Elena Lazic, Little White Lies (three stars)

Ready or Not is in UK cinemas now.