With Ready or Not, Australian actor Samara Weaving is coming for the horror throne.
You’re exhausted from your (rather stressful) wedding day, when your husband comes in with one more request: a family game night with your in-laws. As instructed by your intimidatingly Gothic new family, you pull a card that says “Hide and Seek” and are instructed to be out of sight until dawn. It’s a weird wedding night tradition, but if this is what it takes to be with the love of your life, you’ll find a dumbwaiter and wait in eerie silence for a hot minute. But just when you’re ready to give up your location to head to bed with your new hubby, a twist is revealed. Your sister-in-law rounds a corner and kills the maid with a crossbow intended for you. Suddenly you realize you’re not merely playing “hide and seek” with your new family…you’re being hunted by them in a sadistic ritual they’ve participated in for generations.
That’s the set-up of new horror comedy Ready or Not, which puts a hilariously nightmarish spin on meeting your in-laws. It stars Australian actress Samara Weaving as Grace, an independent new bride who is ready to start a life with her very rich and very cute husband Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), who also happens to be a board game heir. And if you didn’t know there was money — and murder — in the board game biz, then allow the Le Domas’ to show you.
Grace may be initially naive to the horror around her, but Weaving’s not. Though she began her career in 2008 on Australian soap Out of the Blue, and, the following year, Home and Away (a famous incubator for Aussie talent), Weaving has worked on a number of horror projects prior to Ready or Not. That includes Starz series Ash vs the Evil Dead and Netflix horror comedy The Babysitter, in which she plays the titular villain. Picnic at Hanging Rock, a limited series on Amazon based on Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel of the same name, was a quieter, creepier, addition to the 27-year-old’s resume.
As Grace, Weaving is forced to hide and fight for her life against her new mother-in-law, father-in-law, and the rest of Max’s deranged family in her destroyed and bloodied wedding dress — but don’t call her a hapless victim. In the tradition of a modern “final girl” trope like the ones we’ve seen more recently in films such as Midsommar, Happy Death Day, and Us, Grace doesn’t hide and allow herself to be hunted. She fights like hell on what should be the happiest night of her life, proving she won’t be anyone’s sacrificial lamb…or, in the case of this film’s goriest scene, their sacrificial goat.
After running around in 12 crusty wedding dresses, performing most of her own stunts, and hilariously giving life and power back to the “damsel in distress,” Ready or Not might be the final step in Weaving’s ascent to the great scream queen throne.
Over the phone, Refinery29 spoke to Weaving about collapsing into a pile of fake goat corpses, seeing The O.C.’s Seth Cohen (Adam Brody plays her drunk brother-in-law) in a new light, and what Australians get right about working in Hollywood.
Refinery29: Where does Grace fit in as a “final girl” in the horror genre?
Samara Weaving: “We should change it to final woman, unless it is a little girl, don’t you think? When I was figuring out the arc of [my character], I didn’t want every discovery and every moment to have the same reaction of horror. I wanted Grace to get angry and determined. Grace wanted to get married so badly because she really wanted a family. If she was in foster care, she could have been in some very awful situations. The imagination can run wild. I thought that was a logical way to make her fight back against so many people. The only downside is that she’s in a house where she doesn’t know how everything works.
“The biggest thing I wanted for Grace was for her to be very strong. I didn’t want her survival skills to be an accident or a fluke, I wanted her to really think about the situation she was in and make decisions out of logic, instead of desperation. The [Ready or Not team] was great about that, and really worked on the script and worked on that theme so that we could make Grace more of a powerhouse. I really didn’t want her to be a damsel in distress.”
Your character deals with a lot of vile things, but one of the worst would have to be falling into a pit of rotting goat carcasses. What was that like to film?
“Well, it was snowing outside, and we were in a barn full of goats, so the smell was delightful. [Laughs] I was hanging from wires. The goats in the pit were all fake, so it was actually comfortable — they were like pillows. I think we finished that sequence at 7 a.m., and we started at 7 p.m. It was just me, pretty much the whole day — me and some goats. Luckily the crew and directors [Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett] were so wonderful to work with.”
What did you think when you first read the script?
“I was sent the script with the offer [to star]. I’ve done a lot of horror comedy, and I know how hard it is to get it right, but the writing [by screenwriters Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy] was all spot-on. They thread that line [between comedy and horror] really well. The [producers and directors] also really loved my ideas, and it was a really inclusive [environment].”
Grace’s new husband Alex knows exactly what’s up with his family, but chooses not to tell her. It’s similar to Allison Williams’ character in Get Out — you’re not sure if these characters side with their diabolical families.
“Alex is so torn. He has family and childhood on one side, and the love of his life and also freedom on the other. There’s a lot of metaphors there. Mark was so good at not giving anything away, and keeping the audience guessing at where his [allegiance] would be. If you are engaged, I would say maybe don’t watch this movie — or watch it and see what your fiancé’s reaction will be. [Laughs] And [really get to know] his family before you get married!”
Did you do your own stunts?
“Most of them. There’s one stunt where I’m in front of a moving car, which would be very bad if done wrong, so [I didn’t do that one.] There’s another where I have to fall from a high spot, [which I also didn’t do.] But it’s me, running around, tackling people.”
Did you watch The O.C. before working with Adam Brody, who plays Grace’s new brother-in-law, on this?
“I didn’t! My parents were very anti-television. Two weeks before [production started] the producers called me and said Adam signed on. My fiancé and I were told [by friends] that we had to watch The O.C., so we started watching it. We got the call that Adam was going to be in it, so we had to immediately stop watching it because it would be just too much. I did ask him a lot of questions about the show on set, though!”
Is there a bond between fellow Hollywood transplants from Australia?
“In Australia, everything is much smaller, and there are less actors. There definitely is that allure to going over to [Hollywood] because everything seems to be happening over there. You assume that if you can make it in Hollywood, you will be okay and be able to work as an actor. It can be really daunting, but the Australian culture can teach you to have a sense of humor about [the business] and making movies. There’s nothing to have a heart attack over. It’s a more laid back culture.”