Ready or Not (MA)
A friend's young son tapped on my trouser leg and held up the drawing he had been working on for quite some time.
"Oh my, what a charming potato you have drawn," I said to the young artist.
He frowned. "That's not a potato, that's you!" he said.
Now, aside from biting down on decades of ingrained body dysmorphia, I also had to restrain my natural Critic instincts to point out where the picture failed in its accuracy and its aesthetics. I'm not a great liar, and so navigating the social politics of the artistic merits of your friends' children is a complex thing for me to participate in.
So, imagine when this newspaper tasked me to review Ready or Not, the latest feature film to headline Canberran Samara Weaving, former Home and Away alumni turned Hollywood headliner.
Because Samara is also the daughter of our colleague on these pages, film critic Simon Weaving.
What if Samara's performance was another potato drawing? The potential for social awkwardness was rife!
Actually, I wasn't too concerned this would be the case, and nor would anyone who had seen her headlining gig in Charlie's Angels director McG's 2017 lite-horror comedy The Babysitter, where she demonstrated a real gift for physical comedy. Or the way she stole scenes right out from under Oscar-winner Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
In Ready or Not, Weaving plays Grace, about to marry into an obscenely wealthy board game family.
Her partner Alex (Mark O'Brien) warns her that his family are difficult people and Grace assumes this is just the usual family embarrassment.
Certainly upon meeting the parents (Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell) things seem normal, then slightly less so at the appearance of alcoholic brother Adam (Adam Brody) and his gold-digging wife Charity (Elyse Levesqu), and uptight sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and her fop of a husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun).
After the nuptials, the family gather for an unusual tradition - every new member to the family must undergo a ritual induction - must participate in a randomly selected game, which makes sense considering the origin of the family fortune.
However, Grace picks a card with "Hide and Seek" printed on it, and the story pivots on its axis - this is a life-or-death game in which Grace will be hunted by the family, whose true nature is uncovered.
The writing team of Guy Busick and R Christopher Murphy pepper their production liberally, referencing both eh game and the movie Clue (Cluedo in Australia), also no end of horror, and Agatha Christie.
The directing team of Matt Bettinelli-Olphin and Tyler Gillett made the whip-smart low-budget horror V/H/S in 2012 and here they give you an equal measure of genuine pick-your-feet-up-off-the-floor scares with slap-your-armrest laughs. They reference dark drawing room drama at first, and then they move to hand-held cameras when Grace and the game of hide and seek begins to move about the house and grounds.
They build pace and maintain suspense throughout, with Grace finding her inner-strength and bad-ass some of the film's greater moments.
Samara Weaving has, in this international second act of her career, built a showcase of smart and goofy scream queen roles and Grace from Ready or Not deserves to join the ranks of Winona Ryder's Veronica from Heathers or Kristy Swanson's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both of whom she references visually at times in this smashingly funny scarefest.
Weaving doesn't get all of the laughs - a few great moments belong to Melanie Scrofano's Emilie, hysterical with nerves at another ritual family slaying who accidentally offs a number of the hired help with her butterfingers. Scrofano is Wynonna Earp in the series of the same name, is a ton of fun in this even though her character loses definition halfway though the film.
Also shining are Andie MacDowell, lending a touch of class to the grimiest scene, and Elyse Levesque, who to me seemed to channel Leanne from the current season of The Real Housewives of Dallas.
While much horror of late is thin allegory for the political landscape or the class divide, the wealthy doofuses in this film don't represent anything or anyone more than the backdrop to an enjoyable and rewatchable fright-lite.