Radio Silence Makes Some Noise With 'Ready Or Not'
New horror-comedy plays its hand well
"The Most Dangerous Game" (1932)
"You're Next" (2011)
"[REC] 4: Apocalypse" (2014)
For my Cinema Junkie podcast I recently interviewed the creative trio behind Radio Silence — Chad Villella, Matt Bettineli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett — and asked about the name of their group, which seemed odd for a collaborative working so vocally in film, podcast and web.
So Gillett explained: "I guess it's based on the way that we all started working together. We had this very do-it-yourself mentality and we were starting to get some followers for the stuff we were making online, and we were getting a handful of meetings around town and we were oftentimes having conversations with people and that would end with, 'Hey, we should work together on something. Let's find a project to do.' And we, of course, were saying yes to everything. We wanted nothing more than to continue to make projects that we would say yes and then never hear back. Radio silence. I think it was just a reminder for us to continue to make stuff, and it was going to be about not asking for permission and to just go and do and tell the stories that we wanted to tell. It's been a reminder of how we started."
The collaborative has contributed segments to such anthology films as "V/H/S" and "Southbound" as well as doing the feature "Devil's Due." Although only Bettineli-Olpin and Gillett are credited on "Ready or Not" as the directors, Villella was also part of the creative team on the set every day. However the duties breakdown on "Ready or Not," the important thing is that the group creates a kind of alchemy that results in a hugely entertaining horror-comedy.
Radio Silence got initial traction as online pranksters who posted videos of their successes and failures. With "Ready or Not" it was a script offered to them and they felt it matched their interests.
The script for "Ready or Not" by Gary Busick and Ryan Murphy, starts with a simple premise: meeting the in-laws can be hell.
Everyone knows weddings can be stressful but Grace’s is going to require extreme survival skills that no wedding planner could ever prepare her for. Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying into the ridiculously rich Le Domas family and since they built their empire on games they have a tradition of making new family members play one on their wedding night. Grace draws a card to play hide and seek. Simple enough, right? It's a big mansion with plenty of places to hide, so Grace should be able to give them a run for their money.
But the family’s not entirely upfront about the rules, which include the fact that they are trying to kill her. The family believes that if they fail to kill her by dawn then a curse will fall on them and they will all die.
"Ready or Not" is a horror-comedy that recalls a little of the tone and feel of the recent "You're Next." Both films have a spunky female outsider dealing with a whacked family and stuck in one location. And both films display a knack for finding the link between horror and comedy. Some may not think the two have anything in common but horror and comedy are actually similar. Both rely on careful building of tension to a punchline or release.
The Radio Silence guys nail that tone to deliver a film that builds suspense and delivers laughs.
The script by Busick and Murphy is also smart. On a certain level, the film would still work without the horror narrative because the family members are all distinct characters who would be a nightmare to meet even if they weren’t trying to kill you. So we are engaged in the story not just because it is delivering horror but because these characters are actually fun and are more than just one-dimensional tropes just waiting to be knocked off or threaten our final girl.
The film works so well because at its core it's about a dysfunctional family dealing with what one member just calls "family sh*t." That's what gives the horror its effective comic edge.
The film is well shot by Brett Jutkiewicz, who helps to make the huge mansion a distinct character. Directors Gillett and Bettineli-Olpin keep the pace brisk and know when to punctuate with a little gore before delivering the next laugh. Although it is not on the level of Jordan Peele's "Get Out" it does try to tap ever so lightly on some social themes as well. In this case, targeting the elite one percent and assuring us that those rich folks are indeed crazy and maybe they have made a deal with the devil.
The rich are an easy target and "Ready or Not" has no trouble picking them off. Not sure how the comic tone of the violence may play as there are calls for Hollywood to tone down its violence. (See the recent controversy and pulling from release of "The Hunt.")
The actors work well as an ensemble with Weaving's Grace as the one outsider. Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell all display meticulous comic timing by just playing the script straight and letting the horror and comedy beats bounce off each other.
"Ready Or Not" knows the game it wants to play and plays it perfectly.