For the first half of the movie, I thought Ready Or Not was going to be a more arch, exaggerated version of You're Next. Or at least I hoped that's what it was going to be.
Something malevolent is going on within the house of the Le Domas board game magnate family. Samara Weaving is marrying into the family and no one seems to like her. Her beau only wants to get the formalities over with and be away from his family again, but there's traditions to deal with, which include drawing a mystical card and having to play a game. This leads to mayhem, being hunted, attempted human sacrifice, and deals with the devil.
I'd long meant to watch the film, but I was more intrigued by it because I didn't know what to make of Samara Weaving after watching Guns Akimbo. I wouldn't say she was good or bad in the film, necessarily, but I didn't really enjoy her. That probably had a lot more to do with the writing of the script than her, so I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and see this. She ended up showing off some of the charisma that was hamstrung in Guns Akimbo and I genuinely like her as an actress, someone who seems perfectly content to take on crazy, over-the-top roles. (Maybe I'll finally get around to watching The Babysitter as well.) So at least they found a lead who could carry the film.
The movie features quite a few fairly-well-known actors playing the shitty, rich in-laws. Andy MacDowell is the matriarch; long-time character actor Henry Czerny is the dickish, overbearing father; Adam Brody, often playing a "smarmy douchebag" type, manages to harness that really well for this movie and ends up being one of the most likable characters. The lesser-known cast was just as good. "Orphan Black" fan-favorite Kristian Bruun brings his lazy asshole comedic charms to the table in exactly the way you'd suspect. Nicky Guadagni, who I really only know from Cube, is nearly a show-stealer with her over-the-top performance as the villainous aunt. And I'm probably going to have to check out "Wynonna Earp", as Melanie Scrofano plays the titular lead; she turned in a hilarious performance as the fuck-up cokehead daughter of the family.
So, pretty much the entire cast is strong, from top to bottom. Maybe Mark O'Brien comes across as bland and weak as the groom of the story, but maybe that was the intent. It made his arc in the script completely obvious instead of head-scratching, so perhaps that shows that it works, even if you feel it coming. But you never particularly care about him, anyway, nor is he even interesting as a character.
Where the movie goes wrong for me isn't with the casting or the film's direction or cinematography. All of those feel top-notch for a movie with a probably meager budget. No, I think it's because I was expecting more of a You're Next, with a stronger, more self-assured heroine who was going to take charge and turn the tables on her captors. But that started to fall apart completely by the halfway mark in the film. I was disappointed as she became weaker and more passive as time went on, just taking the punishment. It seems like an antiquated horror movie cliche at this point to have the female lead exist as a punching bag, to triumph by just make it through the movie intact. But that is ultimately her arc. I could tell things were taking a turn for the worse when she gets a hole blown through most of her hand. I've noticed that it's a sign that you hero is going to fuck up and fail when they start getting their hands maimed and fingers cut off in films. (In fact, Samara lost a few fingers shortly before she died in Guns Akimbo.) And I guess my instinct was right, because - from that point on - she went from someone trying to make smart decisions to someone desperately trying to escape at any cost, doing damage to herself, and then failing over and over again. Maybe it was my personal expectations, maybe I just saw more promise in the film, or maybe the movie was tainted by the similar-but-better You're Next. Nevertheless, my feelings about it never quite recovered and Samara's character never really found her way out of trouble, relying on other people and happenstance to save her at the last minute, every time. I consider that a weakness when I'm looking back at the script and how the film made me feel overall.
Still, the movie was fun, it was more lighthearted than you'd think it'd be, and it wasn't a bad time, though the acting and film-making could only take it so far when our lead's personality and competence fade away over the course of things. It's just unfortunate that more wasn't made out of all those good components, because I feel like Ready Or Not had something more to offer.