At a time when cries of “eat the rich” are more welcome and necessary than ever – here comes Ready or Not. This bloody, funny horror-comedy takes direct aim at the ludicrously wealthy 1% who are happy to make others suffer in order to maintain their opulence. The script is never as clever as it could be, but that’s not an issue. Situations like this sometimes call for the blunt force trauma of a sledgehammer blow rather than a light elbow nudge to the ribs.
It’s the wedding day of Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex (Mark O’Brien). The two seem to genuinely love each other, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Grace has no real family and comes from humble origins. Alex, in contrast, has a close extensive family – and that family is filthy, stinking rich. They’re the La Domas family (or La Domas Dominion, as they like to be called) – all-powerful billionaires who made their wealth in the board game industry. Since their background is in gaming, the La Domas’ are obsessed with all forms of games, and have a tradition: any time someone marries into the family, they have to take part in a game on the wedding night.
The game for Grace ends up being hide-and-seek, and we learn very quickly that whenever that particular game comes up, the La Damos’ break 0ut a cache of antique weaponry and proceed to hunt down the poor soul who just happened to take a La Domas’ hand in marriage. The family isn’t doing this for fun – they firmly believe that they need to perform a full-blown blood sacrifice in order to hold on to their wealthy status.
But Alex has never been comfortable with this ritual and proceeds to attempt to help Grace escape. Getting out of the huge, locked-down La Domas mansion won’t be easy, though. From here, Ready or Not stalks from one ornate mansion room to another, raking up a body count like a particularly gruesome game of Clue. Grace runs, hides, and pummels her way through the family, and the La Domas discover that their latest sacrificial lamb won’t go down without a fight.
As the increasingly frantic heroine Grace, Weaving is endlessly likable and charismatic – it’s easy to root for her, and even easier to feel a rush of blood-lust-infused joy when she’s able to one-up her pursuers. Weaving literally throws herself into the role, and while there’s obviously the work of stunt performers to take into consideration, every brutal blow the character suffers lands an impact – we truly believe Grace’s danger and feel her pain…and her boiling rage. Weaving also has one killer scream – a raspy, warbling shriek that soon turns into a war cry. The character spends a good chunk of the movie screaming her head off, and it never gets old.
The bulk of the cast is a treat as well – particularly Adam Brody as Alex’s drunk, conflicted brother Daniel. Brody’s character feels like the most fully-formed member of the La Domas clan, and the actor brings an amusing weariness to the part. Henry Czerny is also delightful as the family patriarch, who starts off soft-spoken and well-mannered and eventually becomes a howling mess. The one weak spot is Andie MacDowell, who never quite commits to her part as Alex’s mother.
The haves versus the have nots element of the story is never directly underlined, but it’s there as plain as day. A smarter script could’ve worked wonders with this concept, and dipped into sharp satire. But writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy are content to lay their cards on the table right away, and then move from one gory set-piece to the next. Thankfully, the end result is so wildly entertaining that it’s hard to hold Ready or Not‘s simplicity against it.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett overload the film with style, paying close attention to details – be it the fumed oak paneling of cavernous rooms or the increasingly dirty and tattered wedding dress Grace spends the whole movie in. Cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz bathes each scene in heavy shadows, casting a whiskey-colored hue over everything that adds an unexpected level of somberness to somewhat silly proceedings.
By the time Ready or Not draws to its blood-drenched conclusion, you might be put off at how unsubtle this all is. But it’s very easy to get swept up in comical brutality of this story and to live vicariously through Grace as she sticks it to the type of people who have been sticking it to us all for so long. There’s nothing nuanced about Ready or Not – but there’s plenty of fun to be had. This is the most pleasant surprise of the summer movie season.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10
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