Ready or Not (Blu-ray Review)
DirectorMatt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Release Date(s)2019 (December 3, 2019)
Studio(s)Fox Searchlight (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
One of the very best films of 2019 was a multilayered genre effort that used its mystery/suspense story as a vehicle to deliver some very barbed social satire about the relationship between the classes.
And Knives Out wasn’t half bad, either.
When Ready or Not was released in August of 2019, it did very respectable business for a low budget horror comedy, earning $58 million against a $6 million budget. However, it was quickly overshadowed when Knives Out was released the following month. The bigger budgeted, higher profile film with its all-star cast ended up dominating not just the box office, but pop culture as well. It was inescapable. While Knives Out certainly deserved that kind of attention, it’s a shame that the equally wonderful Ready or Not got lost in the shuffle. The satire in Ready or Not is every bit as barbed, and the film has a savage energy all of its own.
Ready or Not was helmed by the Radio Silence collective, with Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett serving as directors, working from a very sharp script by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy. The cast is sublime, with the likes of Henry Czerny, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, and Andie MacDowell filling out the supporting roles. MacDowell is quite good playing against type here, and Czerny gives one of his very finest performances. However, the film is owned from start to finish by lead actor Samara Weaving. She’s not just wonderful in the part; she’s completely unforgettable. Her character goes through what could charitably be described as a bit of a journey, and there’s a definite arc to her performance as well. She changes repeatedly throughout the film in response to the horrors that she’s facing, and her character grows in some very unexpected ways. Weaving’s performance is arguably the most memorable of any horror film in the last decade—she really is that good.
The challenge with discussing Ready or Not is that the less that you know going into it, the more enjoyable it will be. The most that should be said about the actual plot is that Weaving plays a woman who gets married at the estate of her fiancé’s wealthy family, and meeting them does not go quite the way that anyone could have possibly anticipated. One of the joys of the film is the way that it constantly toys with viewer expectations right up until the very end. Ready or Not isn’t a whodunit like Knives Out, but it still keeps viewers guessing right up until the moment that everything is revealed conclusively at the finish. And goodness gracious, the way that things are finally settled will leave no room for doubt. You’ve been warned. Ready or Not may be a horror comedy, but it doesn’t stint on the former in favor of the latter. Yet in the best tradition of horror comedies like this, even the most gruesome moments are still hilarious in their own way.
Busick and Murphy’s dialogue is frequently quite choice, nowhere more so than in the final line of the film. As staged by the directors and delivered by Weaving, it perfectly sums up the entire story, providing a moment of release not just for Weaving’s character, but for the audience as well. Ready or Not could hardly be called crowd-pleasing entertainment, yet it still provides some very satisfying catharsis in the end—just perhaps not quite the catharsis that most people will expect. Speaking of which, if you don’t know very much about Ready or Not, then keep it that way. Don’t even watch the trailer, because while it doesn’t necessarily contain spoilers, it still gives away far too much. See Ready or Not as cold as you possibly can. You’ll thank me later.
Cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz captured Ready or Not digitally in ARRIRAW format using ARRI Alexa Mini cameras with Zeiss Master Prime and Cooke 5/I Prime lenses, framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical release. The image is clean and nicely detailed, with a warm, orange-teal color grade that helps to provide some very sharp contrast. The blacks are deep, enough so that some of the detail may have been lost within the shadows, but that look works perfectly for this kind of film. An HDR grade on a 4K UHD disc might have been able to resolve some of the shadow detail a bit better, but there’s nothing wrong with how everything is presented here. There’s little in the way of noise or any other digital artifacts, but do note that a light layer of artificial grain has been added to the flashback scenes to help differentiate them from the present-day footage. Regardless of whatever benefits that may or may not have been offered by a 4K release, this is still a beautiful 1080p Blu-ray.
Audio is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. (The commentary track also provides subtitles in the same three languages.) IMDb claims that Ready or Not was released theatrically in Dolby Atmos, but there aren’t any logos for it in the closing credits of the film, so that’s a dubious assertion. If an Atmos mix does exist, it’s a shame that it isn’t included here, but this 5.1 mix shouldn’t be underestimated, and it upmixes well via the Dolby Surround or DTS:X algorithms. There are plenty of ambient effects all throughout the soundstage, which enhances the atmosphere inside the house, and there’s some good dynamic impact whenever any action breaks out. The score by Brian Tyler also supports the proceedings nicely. This is an effective mix with or without the extra channels.
The Fox Searchlight Blu-ray release of Ready or Not comes with a slipcover, and it also has a Digital Code on a paper insert tucked inside the case. The following extras are included, all of them in HD:
- Audio Commentary by Radio Silence and Samara Weaving
- Let the Games Begin: The Making of Ready or Not (42:28)
- Gag Reel (4:05)
- Gallery: On-Set Photography (12 in all – 1:05)
- Gallery: Le Domas Family Games (15 in all – 1:20)
- Red-Band Trailer (2:26)
- Sneak Peek (1:50)
The commentary features all three members of the Radio Silence collective, including both of the directors and Chad Villella (who served as Executive Producer), as well as Weaving. Ready or Not appears to have been a fun experience for everyone involved, and that comes through loud and clear during the commentary. There’s plenty of good information here, though the whole thing is a little scattershot, since they quickly jump from idea to idea in reaction to what’s happening on screen. On the other hand, they definitely keep things moving at all times.
Let the Games Begin is a three-part documentary about the making of Ready or Not, featuring film clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with the cast and crew. The screenwriters and Radio Silence members are joined by producers Tripp Vinson and James Vanderbilt, costume designer Avery Plewes, and all of the major players: Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie McDowell, Adam Brody, Elyse Levesque, Kristian Bruun, Melanie Scrofano, and Nicky Guadagni. A Devil’s Bargain covers the development of the film, from writing the script to the design and construction of the sets and the creation of the games. Le Domas Name – A Family Brand delves more deeply into the story and characters, with a natural emphasis on Samara Weaving’s portrayal of Grace, and it also offers a look at how the costume designs help to define each character. ‘Til Death Do Us Part focuses on the actual shooting, with plenty of interesting on-set stories. It gives a fascinating look at how the unforgettable conclusion was put together—surprisingly enough, as perfect as the ending of the final film may be, that’s not the way that things were originally scripted.
The Gag Reel is the usual compilation of flubbed lines and cracking up, but the whole thing is worth watching for a moment when Andie McDowell makes an inappropriate comment at a particularly inappropriate time. The first Gallery features a handful of behind-the-scenes photos, but the second one is far more interesting, since it’s a collection of the artwork that was done for all of the Le Domas board games. They’re only glimpsed briefly in the background during the film, so this is a fascinating look at the subtle attention to detail in Ready or Not. The Red-Band Trailer, needless to say, should be avoided like the plague until after having seen the film. Finally, the Sneak Peek features the same two trailers that play automatically after first starting the disc—the remake of Child’s Play and American Horror Story 1984.
It’s not the most extensive collection of extras, but it’s always nice to get a real making-of documentary instead of just static interviews or EPK fluff. In many respects, however, Ready or Not is the kind of film that’s best left to stand on its own. Don’t worry about how or why it works so well; just savor the fact that it does.
- Stephen Bjork
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