Sadly, 2019 has been a rather dismal year for the horror genre. From outright stinkers like “The Prodigy,” “Pet Sematary,” “IT: Chapter Two,” and “The Curse of La Llorona,” to overrated fare like “Us” and “Midsommar,” there just hasn’t been a whole lot of success in finding an entertaining film that could deliver a good scare or two. One that kind of fell in the middle in regards to its reception was the little horror flick “Ready or Not,” which features a rather intriguing premise involving a classic childhood game. It wasn’t exactly loved, but nor was it hated, and if past experience has proven anything, it’s that this is sometimes where little horror gems can be found (or decent films of the genre at least).
The story involves a couple, Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex (Mark O’Brien), who get married near the start of the film. The latter comes from an eccentric and rich family, who have made it a tradition to have new members of the family draw a random card and play the game written on it. Grace has the unfortunate luck of getting Hide and Seek, which, much to her surprise, involves the family hunting her down with antique weapons. Alex tries to help his wife, but is quickly detained by his family, who proceed with the hunt with great urgency because they believe they will suffer a dire fate should they fail to sacrifice Grace. Will Alex’s new bride be able to survive the night against this group of psychopaths?
“Ready or Not” presents a strange and fascinating foundation from which to build on. The simple concept of taking a game like Hide and Seek, and turning it into something deadly could easily provide a good amount of entertainment, not to mention a number of darkly humorous moments along the way. However, when it comes to Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy’s screenplay, it unfortunately comes across as something of a missed opportunity, for it never truly takes advantage of the bizarre setup. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a few interesting scenes throughout, but rather that they just don’t do quite enough with it to make the 90-minute investment worth it.
Because of this, it’s rather easy to see why it had such a middling reception. It almost hits all of the right notes, including some interesting character twists, unexpected plot elements, the dark bits of humor mentioned earlier, and even a pretty surprising ending (whether it works or is just lazy is a different matter), but these really just make you wish that they had been able to fill it with something a little more memorable, instead of little bits of plot and lots of gore (a common ailment of many horror films nowadays).
All that being said, it’s still one of the better horror offerings of 2019, especially in comparison to the films mentioned at the top of this review. Whereas there was very little (if anything) that worked in those films, “Ready or Not” at least tries to put on a good show, and partially succeeds in terms of providing a couple of thrills along the way. If the screenwriters had gone a little further and added a few more twists and turns, it might have elevated it just enough to the point where it stands out, as opposed to fading somewhat quickly with a narrative that mostly involves watching Grace hide in and around this demented family’s large estate. It may not be the next great horror film that buffs of the genre are always on the lookout for, but at the very least, it presents a turn in the right direction, and that’s always something to be grateful for.
“Ready or Not” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. For the most part, this is a rather dark horror film, but the picture remains perfectly sharp and clear throughout the entire presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally impressive, giving you all of the dialogue and score in crystal-clear quality. Overall, the film has been given fantastic treatment for its home release, leaving you with a great experience in both areas.
Commentary: A commentary featuring directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, as well as star Samantha Weaving, in which they discuss making the film.
Let the Games Begin (42 Minutes): An interesting three-part featurette covering the making of the film, featuring extensive behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew.
Gag Reel (4 Minutes): A lackluster collection of outtakes.
“Ready or Not” presents a fascinating setup with a childhood game that turns into a deadly hunt, giving you a few good thrills and darkly-humorous moments along the way, but unfortunately Busick and Murphy’s screenplay doesn’t do quite enough with the premise, resulting in a film that only engages every now and again, while fading from memory almost immediately. Ultimately, it fits the very definition of a middling horror film, which strangely enough makes it one of the better offerings of the genre this year.