‘Ready Or Not’ — a wickedly fun horror flick you shouldn’t miss

AUGUST 31 — I get excited whenever an indie horror flick (or a studio horror flick with indie horror pedigree) opens in Malaysian cinemas. 

Normally the kind of pleasures that these indie horror films provide will only be accessible on home video, either through streaming channels, downloads or physical media like DVDs and Blu-rays. 

You know what these pleasures are — gore, blood, a wicked sense of humour, irony, naughtiness, and more or less a more transgressive approach to the usual studio horror fare that targets a more general audience (hence the need to sanitise or pull back a bit on some of the trademarks of the horror genre).

As much as I loved the  Has Fallen franchise (with London Has Fallen a particular favourite of mine), the major reason being that they’re rock solid B-movie actioners done on a medium large scale Hollywood budget, something we don’t really see that often nowadays and is actually a sweet homage to 80s macho man movies, especially those starring Chuck Norris, my horror-loving heart made me prioritise another movie instead of seeing the recently released Angel Has Fallen.

That movie is Ready Or Not, a studio horror flick but with legit indie horror pedigree in the form of directors Radio Silence (a collective consisting of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella), who made the highlight of the first V/H/S anthology film with their segment titled “10/31/98” (the one about the Halloween party), also another highlight segment in Southbound (the wraparound story about the robbers) and of course their debut feature film Devil’s Due, not to mention the many YouTube videos that made their name in the first place.

This time teaming up with Fox Searchlight, with distribution by Walt Disney Studios, and a budget of only US$6 million or RM25 million (very low for a Hollywood studio film, even for a specialty division), Radio Silence has produced a wickedly entertaining black comedy horror flick that seems nicely positioned to become a critical hit and a modest box office success at the end of this summer movie season. 

Already grossing US$13 million during its first week in the US (on a significantly smaller number of screens compared to major studio releases too), with mostly positive reviews and a Certified Fresh 87 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes so far, Fox Searchlight might just have a modest hit on their hands after a string of disappointments for Fox this year, which included such major titles as X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Stuber.

The movie is about a young woman named Grace (Samara Weaving, further cementing her place as a potential new scream queen with this, the awesome MayhemThe Babysitter and God knows what else she’s got in store for us in the future) on her wedding day, marrying into the rich Le Domas family, who made their fortune in gaming (of the old school board games kind, not video games). 

The in-laws don’t look particularly fond of her, as do her husband’s relatives, but Grace loves Alex dearly, and even when Alex forebodingly gives her a chance to “leave”, she sticks around, because she honestly wants to marry him.

If you’ve seen the movie’s trailer then you’ll already know what’s in store for her, which is why I used the word “foreboding” because we know and we fear for her. 

You see, the Le Domas family has got this tradition for anyone new to the family from marriage — on his or her wedding night, the family will gather together and the new addition will pick out a card, and play whatever the game that card says they have to play. 

When Grace pulls out a card, it says the game is “Hide and Seek.” The movie’s prologue (and its trailer) will tell everyone watching that this is not a normal game of hide and seek, as the seekers are seeking to kill the one who has to hide.

So once Grace out pulls out that card and they play their perverted version of hide and seek, the movie more or less becomes a combination of The Most Dangerous Game, The Purge and Clue

But this being a Radio Silence movie, there’s a whole lot of black comedy here, especially when they have fun lampooning family dynamics using archetypal characters like the family black sheep, the cokehead bimbo daughter, the overachieving social climber, the eager to please little kid and many more to colour the personalities of the family members.

There is plenty of blood and gore (even in the version showed in cinemas here), and of course plenty of laughs as well. 

Although I think they’ve missed the chance to really home in the potential social satire aspect of this movie (because this is basically a movie about the rich hunting the poor), they’ve still managed to make an impressively well-crafted horror movie that’s peppered with a whole lot of darkly funny jokes and awesomely bloody set-pieces. 

In fact, so cleverly detailed is the screenplay by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy that there are even a few puzzles there for us to solve using anagrams for the names of characters, like the name of the game master Le Bail (which is of course an anagram for Belial). 

Even the family name Le Domas gives a clue to at least two things, the first being a betrayal that comes at the end of the movie (I’ll leave that for you to figure out, just use anagrams), and the other being that Le Domas is also an anagram for the fallen angel Asmodel.

There may not be enough promos or billboards for this little gem, since it is still more or less an indie picture distributed by a big studio, but don’t let its low profile fool you. It’s money well worth spending.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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