“It’s just a weird family ritual.”
Class warfare, outdated family traditions, and holy matrimony literally duke it out in Ready or Not, a bloody fun and uneven attempt at satire that doesn’t quite pack enough detail to fully flesh out its guttural gusto throughout. The film’s original and somewhat predictable, brazen in tone but rather safe in the overall execution, adding up to a picture that pleasantly embraces extremely dark comedy without much of the expected inventiveness or identity to stamp as its signature self. Ready or Not has a clear agenda guided by some clever direction, and it would have greatly benefited from taking audiences to unexpected rooms and new emotional landscapes within the confines of the setting’s picturesque manor. A better realtor might have teased and explored more of the property.
One of the more disarming moments in the heavily weaponized Ready or Not comes early on, as it’s supposed to. Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), heir apparent to the family gaming dominion (that they prefer the term to “empire” shows their fear-mongering, antiquated ways) is set to marry the aptly named Grace (Samara Weaving), the great love of his life. Alex rebuked the family for years, only returning out of respect for their deeply ingrained traditions. The two wed, Alex calls Grace downstairs around midnight, telling her to pull a card from a box and play the designated game as all newcomers marrying into the family are required. She naively smiles at the sight of “Hide and Seek” while the surrounding family members are taken aback by a witch’s brew of dread and sheer excitement. Grace is told to stay hidden until dawn, she casually saunters off into the dimly lit corridors, and the Le Domas family begin the countdown, picking their weapons before literally hunting down the bride. They’re determined to catch her if they can.
Ready or Not revs on all cylinders if you’re able to overlook the unspecified “why” of the crazed family’s actions and instead hone in of the often hilarious “how” in which they go about trying – and often failing – to maintain or pass on a debased tradition while dressed in aristocratic garb. They truly believe that the family will go up in flames should they fail to kill Grace before just before sunrise, and in retrospect, the funniest gags come from watching out-of-touch elites fail to execute the most basic of Darwinist principles, oftentimes resulting in self-inflicted wounds and a few casualties. However, Ready or Not really fails to elevate most of these characters beyond one-sided portraitures. Besides the Le Domas patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny), his insincere wife Becky (Andie MacDowell), and their drunkard son Daniel (Adam Brody) who’s a failed brother to Alex, the rest of the people in this film carry as much weight and depth as any number of throwaway mystery character cards in a game of Guess Who?
One of the more frustrating things about the movie is how the confident, playful, stylish direction from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett doesn’t quite gel with the insidious, often gruesome sense of humor instilled by screenwriters Guy Busick & Ryan Murphy. There seems to be a subtle disconnect between between the two, throwing a soft jab instead of a knockout punch in the the same kind of way that most of Adam Wingard’s films – like You’re Next or The Guest – hardly hit me on a personal level. And yet there’s really no denying that Ready or Not smartly caters to the dwindling and modern cult crowds of genre cinema, delivering a film hardly lacking for gore and one that only gets better with time, with age, and with a learned sense of retribution induced by quiet, learned rage. Something in my gut tells me that I’ll revisit this one months or years from now and wonder why I didn’t rate it higher, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if ends up in my top 50 movies of 2019. Whether you hate it or love it, Ready or Not deservedly demands to be found.
“You have to play.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5