Blu-ray Review: READY OR NOT

KNIVES OUT isn't the only "rich family of jerks gets what's coming to them" game in town.

A whole bunch of folks went to see Knives Out over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and for good reason: it's a pretty great movie! It's easily one of the most genuinely crowd-pleasing films all year, and for an original film that's a minor miracle. Rian Johnson's carefully crafted but very accessible (and funny!) script attracted top tier actors like Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette... look just read the IMDb cast page for the movie and you'll probably say "oh he/she is great!" about pretty much every name in there. Hopefully Johnson has plans to bring Craig's Benoit Blanc (preferably with another assist by Ana de Armas' Marta) for another whodunit, but if it's a one and done, then the "franchise" can remain at 100% great.

However, if you simply want more of an asshole family possibly trying to kill each other, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has perfectly timed the Blu-ray and digital release of Ready or Not, a late summer theatrical release that performed pretty respectably itself for an original *R-rated* film that also didn't have the benefit of a full cast of A-listers. In fact it outgrossed the film it's often compared to: You're Next, which is also a horror film about a family trying to kill each other in and around their isolated estate. But while that film (of which I am a huge fan) has a number of laughs, the overall tone is very much that of a darker thriller, whereas Ready or Not shares Knives Out's sense of mischievous fun (and its Rotten Tomatoes "Fresh" rating, obnoxiously slapped on the Blu's cover art - studios, stop doing this!). 

It's also the rare film that benefits from seeing a trailer, since advanced knowledge of the premise allows some of the earlier lines of dialogue to come off as funny themselves, whereas if you're completely unaware of the plot you won't think anything of them. Samara Weaving stars as Grace, who grew up bouncing around foster homes and is now set to marry Alex, who is part of the very wealthy Le Domas family, who built their empire on a collection of highly successful board games (none that actually exist, though they're all certainly inspired by ones you'd recognize). Without any real family of her own, Grace is eager to please her new in-laws, which means she is more than willing to go along with the family's tradition of welcoming a new member with a game night (at midnight, no less), even with her husband Alex (Mark O'Brien) urging her to ignore them. 

Being the new addition, Grace is tasked with picking the game out of a hat (so to speak), and as luck would have it, she draws "Hide and Seek" - and the looks on everyone's faces when she draws that particular title tells us that this will not be an ordinary game night. Had she drawn Parcheesi or something, they'd just play and that'd be that, but Hide and Seek means the stakes are raised. Without spoiling the particulars, Grace's goal is to stay hidden until dawn, but if she loses - she's dead. Thankfully it doesn't take her long to realize this, and she starts fighting back while also severely doubting the future of her marriage. It's all very silly, yes, but the actors (including a terrific Adam Brody as her drunken brother-in-law who may be an ally, and the great Henry Czerny as the patriarch) play it straight and thus manage to make it seem like a legitimate situation someone might find themselves in someday. 

As with Knives Out, part of the fun is understanding the family dynamic despite meeting them under heightened circumstances; obviously they can't spend too much time on their usual gathering type behavior, yet those relationships need to be made clear all the same. Who's the black sheep? Who's the gold digger? Who's the only one who might have a conscience? Sussing these things out is just as enjoyable as watching Weaving (who honed her ass-kicker chops in 2017's Mayhem) fight back against these assholes. The script by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy is fast-paced and given enough twists to keep it engaging but not to the point of it being over-complicated or "too much work" to just sit back and enjoy the ride, and it's enhanced by the lively direction of the Radio Silence team, who are smart enough to know that when a cast member needs to be covered in blood, the people who will most enjoy this movie require it to be practically done.

You can see some of their dedication at work in the 40+ minute making of documentary, which is rather extensive for a modern film and greatly appreciated by yours truly. Much of it is given over to the costume design (Weaving had 17 different dresses at various stages of deterioration to keep continuity in check) and how they work as co-directors, though the cast also get their due as they had to each strike their own balance with regards to the humor, so that things never went too far into slapstick/farce territory. The team is also joined by Weaving on a spirited commentary track, where they note some story changes that occurred, praise the other actors, and relay some fun anecdotes from what seemed like a pretty jovial production. Also, both the making of AND the commentary have their own subtitle track, which is something I wish could become standard, or at least not so rare that I have to note it when it's offered. 

It's somewhat of a shame the studio didn't get the film on shelves in time for Thanksgiving, since it would make for an excellent post-dinner viewing with the family (provided they possessed the right sense of humor for such fare), especially with its over-the-top conclusion giving traveling cousins and in-laws the adrenaline shot they might need for their drive home. But it's here now, and given Knives Out's success, it seems folks are in the mood - for whatever reason! - to see a bunch of rich jerks get their just deserts from a "have-not" type. Obviously the two films serve different masters, since one's a PG-13 comedy and the other is a hard R horror/thriller, but the two share a similar sentiment about entitlement, and most importantly, they're both just plain fun.