You may remember Samara Weaving making a brief but hilarious impression as the ex’s rambling fiancée in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The 27-year-old Australian actress (her uncle is Hugo Weaving) now stars in Ready or Not, a horror film that puts her comic talents to good use, and she makes this morsel of evil fun so enjoyable.
She plays the heavy-handedly named Grace, whom we first see marrying Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), the scion of a horrible, rich-as-Croesus family that built their fortune on board games. The Le Domases traditionally play a game on the wedding night whenever a new person marries into the family, and Grace draws a card that mandates that her game will be hide-and-seek. She duly hides in the giant Le Domas mansion and thinks it’s all in fun until she sees one of her new in-laws accidentally kill a housemaid. The Le Domases are all armed and hunting Grace except for Alex, who is secretly trying to help her. He gives her an old, dirty pair of sneakers to run in and tells her that the family believes they’ve made a deal with Satan for their wealth and that something terrible will happen to these crazy rich white people if they don’t ritually murder Grace before dawn.
If you’ve seen a few horror films, you know we’ll see what happens in that scenario and what an explosively funny joke it is, too. This film doesn’t have the complex layers or the creep factor of the similar Get Out, but Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (a directing duo that uses the pseudonym of Radio Silence) make sure that the visual gags land, as when Grace blindly wanders into the path of her pursuers or when Alex’s self-important brother-in-law (Kristian Bruun) fails to see a wedding dress-clad Grace falling from an upper floor because he’s busy texting. The family members continue to act normally even though they’re fatally inexperienced with committing murder. Alex’s cokehead sister (Melanie Scrofano) tries to shoot Grace, almost kills three more people as a result, and sobs, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” Alex’s aunt (Nicky Guadagni) makes for a running joke just by showing up — think of the meanest-looking old lady that you can imagine — and she tries to give a motivational speech to the Le Domases, only to be repeatedly interrupted by a relative’s death rattles.
This Canadian-heavy supporting cast gets into the swing of things, and Adam Brody makes some welcome contributions as Alex’s alcoholic brother, who can’t stifle a laugh when he sees the mark Grace left defending herself from the family butler (John Ralston). Still, this doesn’t work without Weaving, who knows whether to overemote or underplay and does both well. Grace fleetingly manages to glimpse the Dark Lord himself, and her understated reaction to it is one of the best things here. One way to make the slasher-movie heroine role more interesting is to make her funny, and both the Happy Death Day films and Ready or Not have been able to do that. I say, let’s have more.
Starring Samara Weaving and Mark O’Brien. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy. Rated R.