Ready or Not is Full of Horror Comedy Riches

Often,”marrying up” carries a set of consequences that you must adhere to for acceptance into the fold.  Proper etiquette, dressing to impress and a background that isn’t too sullied by scandal lest you be judged harshly is all very important in this superficial world. But what if marrying up means marrying into something more sinister than you could ever imagine? In Ready or Not, V/H/S alumni Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett give us a run for our money as a new bride gets acquainted with her sadistic in-laws. 

Grace (Samara Weaving) is about to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), one of the heirs to the Le Domas game dynasty. Surrounded by old money in a massive mansion, Grace is filled with emotions and nerves as she comes from a meager, foster home background and is about to join the world of the very rich. The family members are eccentric, with Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), who looks like Nosferatu’s stylish ex-wife, Daniel (Adam Brody), Alex’s surly and sauced brother, and Becky (Andie MacDowell), their beautiful Southern mother. Their father Tony (Henry Czerny), is the picture of a patriarchal figurehead with loads of family history and a commanding presence. It’s tradition for the family to play a game at midnight when someone gets married; using a special box passed down from ancestors to choose a game at random for the newest member. Instead of checkers, Grace gets the dreaded Hide and Seek, which means she must hide and the family seeks, however things get deadly when she realizes she must be caught and dealt with in a very unpleasant way, because the rich never want to lose. 

The Le Domas clan ready to play. Source: IMDb

I was not ready for Ready or Not, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised. The film was all action, all suspense, gorier than you’d think, and a lot of fun. Writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy managed to keep the banter funny, clever and extremely dark without going for cheap gags, and I was thrilled to see a mostly Canadian cast.  Along with Czerny and Cube’s Guadagni, we were also treated to  Melanie Scrofano of Wynonna Earp as Alex’s high-strung and strung out sister Emile, Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun as her husband Fitch, and John Ralston as Stevens, the evil butler. They were all in fine form as the psychotic family members bent on catching their prey regardless of the cost. Weaving was stellar as the determined new bride fighting for her life, and I also have to give kudos to Andie MacDowell, who was deceivingly sweet and just gets more stunning with age.

Grace (Weaving) means business on her wedding night. Source: IMDb

With many a clever spin on a classic cat and mouse chase, spot on performances and an evil family you’ll actually kind of love, Ready or Not is destined to be a horror fan’s go-to for fun. 

The Perfection: Dedication and Depravity Scores a 10

If you’re thirsting for an Asian horror-inspired, stylized roller coaster ride with buckets of tension, look no further than Richard Shepard’s The Perfection.

Charlotte (Allison Williams, Girls, Get Out) is a musical prodigy.  Enrolled in the elite Bachoff Academy where students are hand-picked for their talent, she is destined to become a legendary cellist. Family obligations put her career on hold and 10 years later, Charlotte is ready to reclaim her life.  She reconnects with the school dean Anton (Steven Weber, Channel Zero), and is invited to Shanghai to judge a competition along with the school’s newest star, Lizzie (Logan Browning, Dear White People). The two women soon learn they are fans of each other’s work and become inseparable.  When Lizzie falls mysteriously ill, both their worlds change forever.

Charlotte (Williams) in Shanghai

There’s a fine line you walk when reviewing The Perfection because it presents a unique timeline that catches you off guard, making it difficult to navigate around many a spoiler. What I can say is that the film is exactly what a fan of Asian extreme cinema would enjoy, and Shepard parlays the themes, style and body horror of Asian extremity in an exciting way for North American audiences. He does so not because the film sets the scene in Shanghai or because there are Asian actors, but by using the tone and beats so often used in Asian extreme cinema. Shepard has mentioned in interviews The Handmaiden and Oldboy by Park Chan-wook as inspirations, and I also get a Sion Sono or Takashi Miike vibe as well. The story starts subtly, lulling the audience with romance and kinship that’s sexy and not gratuitous, then landing an unexpected roundhouse kick to our plot expectations. We’re sent reeling just enough to collect ourselves and follow along for the ride.

Both women were made for the all-American girl role; Williams, who played the awful Rose in Get Out, is perfect as Charlotte with her fresh looks and innocence versus Browning’s appeal as the more worldly and tougher of the two. It works well, especially since they’ll need to draw on their opposite bad girl/vulnerable selves later. They both reportedly learned how to play the cello as well, to make their performances believable, and their chemistry is undeniable.

The haunting music was composed by Paul Haslinger, former member of Tangerine Dream, the band so beloved for their numerous film scores, so there’s some major musical street cred involved. I also love that Nicole Snyder and Eric C. Charmelo who both mastered complicated plots for the TV series Supernatural, were on the writing team. Their skill at dealing with intertwining plot threads is well used here.

Lizzie (Browning) and Charlotte (Williams) play together.

Shepard’s The Perfection ultimately captures the intricate web women must navigate for success, the weight of societal expectations, and what women have endured to achieve it minus the male gaze-y tropes. Be prepared for abuse, full-on gore and a whole lot of twists and turns. It’s mandatory to endure all of it for one of the most bizarre, violent and satisfying finales I’ve seen in a long time.

The Perfection is streaming now on Netflix.  Let it be the salve for you jaded horror fans out there.