As I mention to directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and executive producer Chad Villella, as someone who isn’t a huge horror movie fan, I wasn’t, let’s say, looking terribly forward to Ready or Not. But, yes, it quickly won me over and, honestly, I think it’s one of the funniest, if not the funniest, movie of 2019.
It’s a chilling premise and a pretty classic horror movie setup: On the night of her wedding, Grace (Samara Weaving) must play “a game” with her new very wealthy in-laws, as a ritual of sorts to truly join the family. To do this she must pick a card at random that chooses the game. Most of the games are benign, but if hide and seek is chosen, well, that’s bad. And, no, it wouldn’t be much of a movie if that’s not what she picks – which sets off a bloody, gory romp where the stakes are either Grace is killed or the rest of the family dies in some mysterious way, or at least that’s what legend says.
But instead of straight horror, comedy ensues because no one in the family – which includes Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, and Henry Czerny – has done this before so, of course, they are all quite bad at it.
Ahead, the team that created Ready or Not explains why they wanted to make something that’s not a typical horror movie, and why it’s so important to them that a prestige studio like Fox Searchlight is putting this out.
I am not a horror fan, but I love this movie.
Tyler Gillett: Well, you have great taste! I would say we very intentionally wanted to make a film that wasn’t just one thing. So, I would say, one of the things that we’re most proud of is that it is a film. It is a story that hopefully is going to resonate with audiences beyond just the sort of horror niche. And, hopefully, we’ll capture their interest as well. But for us, we think there are ideas that are a little bit larger than just jump scares and gore.
I’ve never been a jump scare fan, the horror I like is more like Poltergeist. But, honestly, this might be the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. Though, maybe you don’t want that quote on a poster.
Tyler Gillett: No, that’s amazing. I mean look, the thing is, the challenge is obviously making sure that if it is a genre movie. And by the way, Poltergeist is a great comparison. That’s one that we certainly were thinking a lot about when we were making this. It feels naturally and intentionally funny. You’re not laughing at it, you’re laughing with it. And that certainly is the main challenge of infusing that tone into a genre movie.
What’s so funny is that the villains are dopes. This very scary situation is presented, but of course the villains are bad at murder because they’ve never done it before.
Chad Villella: That’s exactly kind of what drew us to the project. None of them are good at what they do. They come from a place of privilege and wealth where they’re used to having people take care of things for them and they are incapable of taking care of something that’s so dire to their existence. And we thought that was a lot of fun and a really cool end of this.
Henry Czerny is great, I’ve enjoyed him since the first Mission:Impossible. He’s perfect as the patriarch who comes off as the stern figure, and then it was just really bad at what he’s trying to do.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin:: Watching Henry, kind of his evolution as a guy who’s just trying to hold on as his legacy and ego fall apart, piece by piece. I also love that you brought up how you love his character. You love Tony because I think one of the things that’s so fun about this movie, hopefully, is pretty much everyone we talk to has a different favorite character. There’s something in each character that if you latch onto it, you can really go like, “Hey, I get this guy.” Or, “I get this woman.” You know what I mean?
Well, I’m not going to say I get Tony. I just find it funny how bad he is at what he’s trying to do.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: For sure. Yeah. No spoilers, but his last line kind of sums that entire thing up.
And I know this is kind of what we’re doing right now, but what is your strategy to get the word out there this isn’t a typical horror movie? “Dread” is a strong word, but let’s say, as not a horror fan, I was not really looking forward to seeing this movie. Then it just grew on me and I realized, oh, this is something different.
Chad Villella: First of all, that’s great it’s going across that way. Because that’s exactly what we wanted to do. When we were even taking the dab in the script phase, we needed to find the absolute perfect partner who would allow us to make a movie like this, because it doesn’t check just a singular box. And I think when we went into Fox Searchlight, their creative team there, who we absolutely adored working with, were on board for the ride right away.
I will admit, the fact that Fox Searchlight is putting this out piqued my interest.
Chad Villella: And they’re down for the experiment of this. And that it was outside the box for them a little bit. It wasn’t a traditional, “Oh cool, we could release this in November, and December, and do the awards.” It’s, “Let’s have fun with this genre and let’s have a little bit of adventure with this and see what we can do with it.” And we kind of came on at like the perfect time. This is right before all the other stuff was going down on the studio side that we won’t get into.
How bumbling did you want to make this wealthy family? Because the reason I liked it so much is this seems almost realistic. Of course, they are not good killers.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: That that was a huge part of the movie for us, treating this very real. What would these people, who don’t even wash their own dishes, how would they deal with it if they had to go murder somebody just so they could keep the wealth they already have? And I think one of the really fun things for us when we were making it and shooting it was the actors all brought a real sense of reality to their characters, where you have someone like Andi McDowell, who’s trying to protect her family. But at the same time, you get to have fun with them being fucking idiots at the job at hand. They cannot competently do the one thing that they have to do. And another flip side of that is that we thought it was really fun, is that Somara Weaving as Grace is a badass and scrappy, but she’s also not a superhero.
Right, she didn’t know what she was doing either, which was great.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: And for us, that’s what we like too, and that’s something that we just feel we don’t see: It’s just real people who have to deal with shitty things regardless if they’re a “good guy” or “bad guy.” Just living in that instability of, “What the fuck are we doing,” really brought everything to life for us.
Even the poster sets her up as kind of in charge, and then we find out she’s not really good at this either.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: We love the marketing and we love the kind of slight of hand that you’re like, “Oh yeah, fucking badass.” And then you get in the movie and you’re like, “Wait, she’s not good with the shotgun.”
The scene that won me over early is where a member of the family is accidentally killed and there’s a debate if that “counts” as the murder because no one wants to be doing this.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin: We quite enjoyed that as well. Thank you. Totally
Tyler Gillett: It came from the idea, yeah, none of them want to be doing this. This isn’t a good situation for anybody in this family.
And there’s a debate if what they are trying to avoid is even real.
Tyler Gillett: Again, back to this idea of the kind of range of perspectives within the ensemble, but that’s kind of what keeps so much of the second act, in terms of the character motivation stuff, moving forward. That there is a little bit of a debate happening, sometimes very outwardly, but also you see it within each character about what exactly the purpose of this night is, and is it fucking real? I think that, obviously, there’s a little bit of a commentary about faith and religion and what you believe in and the kind of things that you’ll do for those beliefs. But, we love towing that line. And, obviously, no spoilers, but how that pays off in the third act – the kind of rising action of this; the consequence of the night going sideways – that was such a fun guiding light for us. And experiencing that with the characters at the end is honestly one of the most rewarding parts of the movie for us. And something that, when we were in pre-production, everyone was like, “Alright, cool. How are we going to do this?” We kept going like, “Don’t worry. We got this. We’ll figure this out.”
‘Ready or Not’ opens next Wednesday, August 21st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.