Film Review: READY OR NOT (USA 2019)

Ready or Not Poster
A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game.

From a script by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy READY OR NOT is a horror black comedy directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett that serves to amuse but ultimately disappoints.  An example of a film that closest follows READY OR NOT is Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 CLUE based on the board game.

READY OR NOT (the phase conned from the game hide-and-seek) follows Grace (Aussie Samara Weaving), a young bride who joins her new husband Alex Le Domas (Canadian Mark O’Brien) and his rich, eccentric family led by the patriarch (Henry Czerbny) and the mother (Andie MacDowell) playing a game of deadly hide-and-seek, where her in-laws attempt to find her before dawn.   Grace is ‘it’.  The other members of the family are to find her.  The family are armed with an assortment of weapons like pistols, rifles and crossbows, the latter who many are still experimenting its usage.  When she realizes that the Le Domas family intends to hunt and kill her, she turns the one-sided hunt into a free-for-all, with everyone fighting for their survival.  As Alex goes against his family to help her, Grace discovers that the night is part of a diabolical ritual.  Why the ritual?  The reason given is that if the new member of the family is not killed by dawn, then each member of the family will be killed or destroyed instead by some form or other.  The ritual has worked in the past.  But this time around, it might not owing to Grace’s  resourcefulness.

The concept of READY OR NOT sounds solid but there is difficulty in translating it to film.  One flaw is the script which is little too ambitious to be credible on screen.  There are two twists in the story towards the end (which will not be revealed in this review) but both quite predictable.   It also takes quite a bit to believe what s happening at the end, as the film has nothing supernatural about it except during the ending.   The script is also limiting as it concerns family members playing hide-and-seek which means not many opportunity for many to be killed in a violent or gruesome way.  The only means the family killers are killed off in the film are by the weapons accidentally going off.

READY OR NOT, a low budget film looks more expensive on screen.  The film was shot mainly in Oshawa, a town close to Toronto with a cast of a number of Canadian actors including the roles of the groom and father.  The film should easily cover its cost in box-office receipts.

READY OR NOT ends up a little amusing time-waster though aspiring but never achieving the giddy heights of deliciously wicked horror-camp like the Italian Gallo films popularized by Dario Argento (OPERA, SUSPIRIA, BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE).

READY OR NOT has a Wednesday opening like many horror films and should pull in a decent box-office sum.


Film Review: ISABELLE (UK/Canada 2018) ***

Isabelle Poster

A young couple’s dream of starting a family shatters as they descend into the depths of paranoia and must struggle to survive an evil presence that wants nothing more than their very own … See full summary »


Robert Heydon


Donald Martin (screenplay by)

ISABELLE is a psychological thriller that treads on the successes of past horror classics like ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE EXORCIST.  The lead character is a pregnant mother and the character is being possessed by some demon who wants to live in the human world.

Director Rob Heydon sets the stage at the film’s start with several audience anticipation moves.  An all-American couple (though the film was shot in Hamilton and Toronto, Canada) moves into a New England neighbourhood.  First comes a scream from the pregnant mother, Larissa (Amanda Crew).  “The baby kicked me.  She is strong.”  “You don’t want this baby.”  These are words that propose that things are going to get nasty.

True to expectations, things do not get better.  Larissa meets the odd next door neighbour, Ann (nicely played by Sheila McCarthy) and her wheelchair bound daughter, Isabel (Zoe Belkin), who spends all the time staring at her through her second floor bedroom window.  

Larissa loses the baby.  She becomes terribly depressed and prescribed depression medication that seems to make her go all weird and paranoid.  There is only so much hubby Matt can tolerate.  The script introduces a weird looking pastor who actually is normal and tries to help the couple.  The music is also greta at creating the mood of a scary atmosphere.

The film contains some great genuinely scary moments.  “I want to see my baby,” demands Larissa after delivering her stillborn.  But they never let the audience see it, well perhaps only a glimpse.  

Director Heydon sure is adept at keeping the mood of the film successfully creepy.  The dead baby keeps appearing out of nowhere to invade Larissa’s dreams to just shock her.   The baby’s scorching red eyes add to the scares.  Red eyes are commonly used, as witnessed too with Chuck’s eyes in CHILD’S PLAY, also opening this week.  Larissa also acts weird but McCarthy’s neighbour is sufficiently creepy all on her own.  The camera shot of a newspaper article of a child abuser adds on even more.  It is assumed that Isabel is be the daughter of the child abuser, though the spelling of Isabel is different from the title of the film.

The film has a short running length of less than 90 minutes.  For this short a running time, too much happens – especially at the end, so that credibility is stretched to the limit.  It is not that audiences would believe what transpires on screen anyway, but too much occurring too fast in a hour film tends to come off as silliness.

The best thing about the film is its build up of the couple’s paranoia and how it affects both the husband and mother – and how they cope with it together.  At times, one wonders whether the film is just a psychological drama with no supernatural element.  ISABELLE ends up a satisfactory low budget horror thriller – the typical Canadian flick that stands in as an American one in order to expand its target audience but the film is up for stiff competition opening the same week as CHILD’S PLAY.