‘Ready or Not’ Review
Rich people aren’t like you and me (unless you happen to be rich, in which case you fall into the first category). Their houses are different. Their family traditions are different. And that’s when Ready or Not, from co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet (known collectively as two-thirds of Radio Silence), really kicks in. Yes, the Le Domas estate is a maze of dark wood, music rooms, and hidden passages, but it’s the wedding day tradition of game night that provides the thrills, chills, shocks, and laughter for about an hour and a half.
Former foster child Grace (a star-making performance from Samara Weaving, The Babysitter, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), is nervous and excited just before her wedding ceremony begins. Her husband to be is Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), the black sheep of an ultra-rich family, and the ceremony is being held within the lush garden and fountain grounds of the Le Domas mansion. Grace loves Alex and seems to have come to grips with his family: alcoholic brother Daniel (Adam Brody) who is always hitting on her, Daniel’s gold-digger wife Charity (Elyse Levesque), father and patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny) who is outspoken in his belief that Grace isn’t good enough for the family, mother and matriarch Becky (Andie MacDowell) who seems confused about her feelings towards Grace, crazy-eyed Aunt Helene (Nicky Guardagni) who seems to hate all living creatures, and coke-head sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) who, along with her douche-husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun) couldn’t even get to the ceremony on time.
The above lineup of players is crucial because of what happens next. For wedding day game night, Grace draws the “Hide and Seek” card, rather than the much-preferred checkers or Old Maid. There is a nice set up for this tradition which includes a Faustian deal made by Great Grandfather Le Domas. It’s that deal that turns ‘hide and seek’ into ‘hunt and kill.’ Oh yeah, Alex forgot to warn Grace about the stakes and it’s a blast to watch her transition as she figures it out. A torn wedding gown and yellow Chucks make up the visual of a bride fighting back against the antique weapons of a crossbow, pocket pistol, elephant gun, and battle-ax. You got it right – this family tradition is absolutely bonkers…and deadly.
As has become the favorite pastime of Hollywood recently, the film torches the ultra-rich. But if you can overlook the political posturings, you’ll find a devilishly fun irreverent farcical zinger that offers some similarities to Clue and Sleuth, as well as many other games and movies. It has some of the look of Saw, but with significantly more tongue-in-cheek. In fact, dark comedy thriller might be a proper description, but you’ll likely find yourself laughing more often than jumping in your seat. It’s a wonderfully crafted and paced film that understands exactly what it is…an instant classic Midnight Movie (along with this year’s Satanic Panic from director Chelsea Stardust).
Co-writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy take full advantage of the ominous setting and the wicked set-up, however, a minor quibble would be that the dialogue could have been a bit wittier. Most of the laughs come courtesy of the moment or the actors, as the banter falls just a little short. The prologue provides a 30 year ago flashback that cautions us for the ride we are about to take, and even offers some insight into the characters as much younger versions of themselves. The opening credit sequence is a beautifully staged and filmed running shot of some classic board games, informing us of the industry closely associated with the Le Domas ‘dominion.’
It must be noted that a studio recently postponed the theatrical release of The Hunt because of the political backlash to their premise – rich people hunting poor people. While the themes of these two films could be considered similar, only the most extreme hard-liners could view Ready or Not as anything more than good demented fun. Much of the primary production was filmed on location at the Parkwood Estate in Ontario, and it’s the perfect setting for a family that chooses murder and fortune over all else. Two standouts on the soundtrack include “The Hide and Seek Song” by Headquarters Music and “Love Me Tender” by Stereo Jane (definitely not Elvis). For those who enjoy the twisted comedy approach to in-law jokes and violence, there are plenty of macabre moments that will deliver a smile…till death do us part.