Ready or Not, 2019.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.
Starring Samara Weaving, Andie MacDowell, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Nicky Guadagni, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, and Elyse Levesque.
A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game.
If you were left disappointed that last year’s Truth or Dare offered up a braindead rendition of a potential-ridden horror take on a classic kids’ game, rest easy that this screen adaptation of hide and seek suffers no such misfortune.
Mere hours after Grace (Samara Weaving) marries into the ridiculously wealthy Le Domas family, her new hubby Alex (Mark O’Brien) informs her that the entire family has a wedding night tradition; they gather together to play a game randomly selected from a deck of cards. In Grace’s case, it turns out to be hide and seek, near-immediately prompting her new family to start hunting her with murderous intent.
It’s such an elegantly simple concept for a gonzo genre film, perhaps one so immediately delicious it would’ve taken special effort to screw up. But rather than merely settle for adequacy, filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Southbound) bring an exacting quality to the table that milks most of the potential for its lot, while giving lead Samara Weaving – who thoroughly impressed in 2017’s The Babysitter – room to barrel through the film like a force of nature.
For the majority, this is an extremely tight and well-paced movie that takes only necessary pains to establish scenario and characters before letting loose with the cat-and-mouse shenanigans.
Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy’s screenplay is exceptionally well-calibrated from a tonal perspective, layering the genuinely effed-up murder and mayhem underneath a heap of hilarious one-liners, and a healthy dollop of social commentary re: class, family, marriage, the perils of arbitrary tradition, and just how damn alien rich people truly are.
In this respect Weaving’s Grace is a note-perfect every-person, an outsider to the family’s murderous antics just as the audience is, frequently expressing her exasperation to either herself or any of the few family members willing to listen without opening fire upon her. Weaving’s porcelain features belie a hardiness that slowly unfurls over the course of the film, transformed from beautiful bride into Converse-wearing, shotgun-totting hunter as survival simply requires.
The extensive ensemble cast meanwhile brings a ton of charm to the table here, with all of the usual board game/airport novel stock characters adequately represented; the silver-haired patriarch of the family, the gold-digger, the idiot, the dope fiend and so on. But they’re not all cartoons; Andie MacDowell is intriguingly ambiguous as Alex’s mother Becky, and Adam Brody gets a legitimately intriguing character to sink his teeth into as Alex’s brother Daniel.
Character logic does tend to be a little iffy at times, though, especially in the third act; characters pull 180s that don’t really feel entirely earned, and you just have to roll with them as part of the bonkers fun, even if the pic generally feels well-crafted enough not to need rely on being a dumb laugh.
There was also ripe room for the film’s satirical elements to be taken in a far more interesting – and funny! – direction later on, though in the interests of a more bombastic payoff, the allegorical aspect appears to have been clipped somewhat. That’s not to call it ineffective, but simply that the final punchline could’ve been even better with a fairly simple outcome tweak.
Though fundamentally imperfect, this film offers up a proposition that’s tough to argue with; stately cinematography and production design, breakneck pacing, outrageous violence often verging on slapstick, gut-busting one-liners and a terrific collection of performers.
A fantastic premise is executed with energy and panache, though it’s rising star Samara Weaving’s fierce – and fiercely funny – performance that makes Ready or Not more than glib fun.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★