You are not ready for “Ready or Not.”
The original horror film from Fox Searchlight, opening this Wednesday, is fun, smart, and incredibly scary. It concerns Grace (the wonderful Samara Weaving) as a young woman who is marrying into a wealthy family whose money comes from the sale of board games. On the night of her wedding, her new husband (Mark O’Brien) tells her that it’s tradition to play a game. (The game is decided by a mysterious wooden box.) She pulls the card marked “Hide and Seek” and for the rest of the night is hunted by members of the family, who hope to use her in something nefarious. (We’re treading lightly on purpose.) Soon, the most magical night of her life turns into the most hellish. It’s awesome.
We were thrilled, as you can imagine, to talk to Radio Silence, the filmmaking collective behind the film that consists of producer Chad Villella and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. In a wide-ranging interview we talked about the genesis of the project, what went into developing the movie, not stepping on “Get Out’s” toes and whether or not they’ve thought about a sequel. And come back after the movie opens for spoiler-y parts of our conversation!
Moviefone: You guys have been on this project for a long time. What was development like?
Chad: We got involved with it in 2016 through the producers. And we worked on it with them for over a year. Then we brought it to Fox Searchlight in 2017. Then we worked on it with Fox Searchlight for the better part of a year, year and a half. It was a great development process though. You know, it took a lot of different forms and then ended up with you see.
What was the biggest change?
Chad: Well it used to be called “Family Ritual.” You'll see the opening and there's all the board games and we have Family Ritual as one of the board games.
Tyler: The original draft took place over a series of days and in a lead up to this wedding and for us, what we really wanted to do and what I think we ultimately ended up doing with Searchlight's involvement, was shorten the timeline of all it. But we've always loved these survive the night thrillers where the volume gets turned up on everything cause the tension is put on this ticking clock.
And ultimately, I think also just loved the image of this, this bride carrying a shotgun, supposed to be having the best day of her life but ends up walking through this horrific nightmare. Everything else, I think tonally and character-wise were the same. And we preserved the weirdness. I think the fear with a script that's so weird and is doing this very specific tonal dance from drama to horror to satire to comedy, that through development that all gets homogenized. And then you have to choose a lane and make one movie. But to the producers’ credit to Searchlight's credit, they were on board for what was weird about it from the start. It's not just about preserving all of that weird shit and even amplifying it when we could.
How essential was the cast in terms of getting this tone right?
Tyler: When you're doing tonal dance, you live or die by the performances. And because it is so specific, everyone has to approach it from the most emotionally grounded way possible. The horror and the humor is more born out of the situation and the collision of these two different worlds -- Grace's world and then this wealthy and this impossibly wealthy family. That's where the humor lives. That's where the thrills live. That's where the genre stuff lives. It’s not about winking or punchlines. It's more about real people experiencing the insanity of this situation.
So how did you find Samara?
Matt: She was suggested to us by Fox Searchlight, who had worked with her on “Three Billboards …” And we watched herself and met with her and loved her. She understood everything we were going for, had great ideas to add to that. And she just embodied what we wanted from Grace, the vulnerability but also the real firm, badass strength. And she had both of those simultaneously.
And I think in addition to that, the thing that is one of her like most amazing features as an actress and, as a human being is a sense of honesty. So even in the littlest moments in a movie like this where you need that honesty to be genuine, she's able to capture that in a way that makes like the humor more funny or scares more perilous, more real. And it's, it's what Tyler was saying earlier is that you need that grounded sense of reality to be able to do these wacky things right.
Are you excited to be poking fun at rich white people?
Chad: The day we went into Searchlight with the project was November 9th, 2016. It was the day after the election, so we knew it was going to be a hot topic moving forward. So we were like, let’s get into this now and really own it.
Was there ever talk of Grace being a person of color?
Tyler: There was. We were developing this when “Get Out” was just crushing it. And we are such huge fans of that movie. It’s just a one of a kind genre film. And I think that we wanted that film to really exist on its own and we wanted to make something that was in the lineage of it, but we didn't want to draw too many comparisons to it because it's just such a classic, such a great movie. What we’re hoping to do is add to the conversation in that lineage instead of plagiarize it in ways that would have been particularly troublesome, had we gone down that path. And we wanted to have a different conversation, in some ways.
We did a lot of development when “Get Out” was coming out. The earlier drafts of the script had some similar structural stuff. We’re actually very grateful that we got to dig in – our characters and story got more specific and we got to compress the timeline, which makes things more scary and fun.
Considering you’re making a horror movie in 2019, have you thought about the sequel possibilities?
Matt: One of our favorite things about this movie is that in an era of sequels and IP-based movies, to make a studio movie that's releasing in theaters that has no existing IP and is not a sequel for us was like, oh my God, this is just like a movie. It's just a regular old movie. And for us it was just like, let's put everything we can into this, let's make this as exciting and thrilling and everything we want. To the sequel thing, we did talk about it but I don’t think any of us are there.
“Read or Not” is in theaters everywhere on Wednesday. It is amazing.