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After some strong but smaller roles in Ash vs Evil Dead and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Samara Weaving gets a lead role in Ready or Not—and totally kills it.

As Grace, a newlywed who has one of the worst wedding days in cinematic history—right up there with Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill—Samara is so good that it makes you wonder how she hasn’t had more big starring roles. She commands the screen with a fierce, comedic energy that helps make Ready or Not a memorable, if predictable, horror/thriller show. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, the movie is a scathing indictment of both the rich and the institution of marriage—all in good fun, of course.

When we meet Grace (fun fact: Weaving is Hugo’s niece), she’s about to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and enter into a very rich family. That family, led by Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell), have built their empire upon board games and sports teams—so their requirement that Grace play a game with them on her wedding night, while wacky, does make a little sense. As a tradition, Grace must draw a card from a mystery box to determine which game she must play with her new in-laws. The card she draws: hide and seek.

She would’ve been much better off drawing chess or checkers.

Armed with historic weapons and a bewilderingly crazed purpose, members of the Le Domas family—which includes seemingly grounded brother Daniel (Adam Brody) and crazily bitter Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni)—are determined to find and kill Grace by dawn. Hey, tradition is tradition, and Grace has got to go. Unfortunately for them, Grace is not going to go easy: She’s got a lot of fight in her, and a lot more than one person will be dying on this particular wedding night.

There have been plenty of movies in which a family isn’t all that happy about the new bride trying to enter their lives … but this one has matriarchs and patriarchs wielding crossbows. Czerny is especially outrageous as the dad who refuses to veer from tradition, even if it involves his new daughter-in-law getting an arrow through her neck rather than a good night’s sleep. McDowell, who has developed a reputation for a being a bit stiff as an actress, proves perfect as the wicked mom whose bow-and-arrow skills are a little rusty.

Brody has fun as the wild-card brother who may or may not be evil, while Guadagni’s permanent scowl is one of the funniest things in the movie. Satire is the driving force behind the plot, but the ending throws a curve that is avoids predictability.

Weaving—who progresses from blushing, pristine bride to blood-smeared, determined warrior—delivers pitch perfect work. As crazy as things get, she makes Grace all the more real. The movie is a not-too-distant cousin of 2017’s Revenge, in which an isolated heroine proves to be far more badass than her adversaries. While both are blood-soaked, this one is a little on the funnier side.

While Ready or Not is fun indeed—there are some laugh-out-loud moments—the movie doesn’t stand out as a genre original. It’s more a goof than anything truly eventful. Still, it’s undeniably fun.

As for Weaving’s future slate: She’ll play Alex Winter’s daughter in Bill and Ted Face the Music, the long awaited second sequel to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. She clearly has a future in comedy, but as she proves in Ready or Not, her talents are multi-dimensional. It’s time for Hollywood to take notice.

Ready or Not is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Last year was a banner year for the horror genre (It Follows, Bone Tomahawk, We Are Still Here), and 2016 is off to a good and creepy start with anthology offering Southbound.

From the producers of the uneven V/H/S series, Southbound consists of four short films tied together with themes of guilt and dread. It’s remarkable how well the work of four different directors come together in one dread-inducing piece.

The film starts with two blood-covered men driving in the desert as they notice floating death skeletons observing their actions. This segment ends badly; things get stranger and nastier as the film progresses to a story about a female rock band whose members ingest strange meat served by a weird guy (Dana Gould) who is more than likely a Satanist.

This is followed by a dude looking for his sister in an eerie town; it’s the stuff of nightmares. (Oh, that ending!) Then there’s the story of a home invasion during which a family is targeted for reasons unknown. The whole thing wraps up with a tasty twist that caught me by surprise.

This is a low-budget affair, but that works in its favor, because the special effects feel nicely old-school. The score is reminiscent of the work of John Carpenter (many directors go for that vibe, and I have no problem with that), and the performances are solid throughout. There were many moments during this movie when I was legitimately scared and uncomfortable. Bravo!

Southbound is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing