Ready or Not

By Di Golding

Mailed on September 05, 2019

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Dear Casa Loma

Dear Casa Loma,

As far as castles go you are one of Canada’s most recognizable - especially since we aren’t exactly renowned for castles. You were built by one of our country’s captains of industry, and your extravagance was his downfall. But since retiring as a private residence, you have become, among other things, a popular wedding venue. Many love stories have played out on your romantic, Gothic grounds. Here’s one…

Once upon a time, there was a young damsel named Grace, and she was about to marry a handsome prince named Alex in his family’s beautiful castle. But – spoiler alert – they did not live happily ever after.

I mean, what did you expect from a Final Girl film? A fairy-tale ending?

There is, however, a fairy-tale intro, where we meet our heroine Grace as she poses for wedding pictures in front of your grand marble fountain, surrounded by manicured English-style gardens. It is the picture of gentility and something Grace, raised in foster homes, is unaccustomed to. The Le Domas family she is marrying into made their money from board games, and her intended husband, Alex, seems a reluctant member of this empire. Perhaps it has to do with their wedding tradition which requires the newest Le Domas to play a game with the rest of the family. A detail Alex fails to mention to Grace until it’s too late, and she is being hunted by the bloodthirsty Le Domases in a life or death game of hide and seek.

You have to admit, you are the perfect venue for this type of murderous bacchanalia, what with your Billiard Room, Conservatory, and underground tunnels. Unfortunately for Grace, she didn’t get to play Clue, though the filmmakers certainly had fun playing with its mythos, incorporating revolvers, ropes, and daggers, and borrowing the campy, clever tone that has since made the 1985 film adaptation a cult classic.

Ready or Not is an adrenalizing entry into the Final Girl canon, with a lean script, dark humour, and a cast more than able to level up to ridiculous. The foundation of this house of horrors is Samara Weaving, upon which the structure of this story rests. The plot kicks in swiftly, leaving little time for Grace’s backstory, but Weaving hits the ground running, literally, and delivers a dimensional character who we watch evolve from sweet bride to ruthless killer with believable ease. Flipping the switch from terror to hilarity is a rare skill, and one she has honed on projects like The Babysitter, Mayhem, and Ash VS Evil Dead. This kind of flexibility is imperative for a film trying to balance mystery, horror, action, social commentary, and comedy, while consistently ratcheting up the tension. Without Weaving at the core, the whole thing would collapse.

Weaving has some strong scaffolding to support her. Besides Andy McDowell as Alex’s psychopathic mother, and Adam Brody as Alex’s sarcastic, conflicted older brother Daniel, the rest of the cast is comprised of Canadian actors. Notably, Mark O’Brien as the helpless Alex, Henry Czerny as the twisted Le Domas patriarch, Melanie Scrofano as Alex’s coked-out, bumbling sister, and Nicky Guadagni as the creeptastic, scene-stealing Aunt Helene. There is not a weak link to be had here, with a cast that completely understands what Ready or Not wants to be, and builds it brick by outrageous brick.

For a time, you were Canada’s largest private residence. Now you are visited by thousands each year, who marvel at your glorious architecture and ornately designed rooms. But sometimes, less is more, and what Ready or Not was able to do with a tiny budget, a strong script, a top shelf cast, and you, proves that bigger doesn’t always mean better. Don’t let it haunt you.



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