Ready or Not (2019)
Ready or Not (2019)

Genre: Horror and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: August 21st, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Actors: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston

 


 

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he incredibly wealthy Le Domas family has upheld a peculiar tradition over the course of several generations. Whenever someone joins the family through marriage, the entire clan gathers at midnight to play a game. When Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) brings home his new bride Grace (Samara Weaving), she reluctantly agrees to participate in the eccentric festivities. But when the game chosen at random is “hide-and-seek” – of a particularly deadly variety – Grace is forced to fight for her life inside the sprawling family manor.

With her almost impossibly large, pictorially sapphire eyes – perhaps suggesting that she’s blue-blooded enough to hang with this crowd of elites – Grace’s introduction marks a stark transition from a morbid cold open, which foreshadows the Le Domas’ proclivities toward taking game-playing too far. She’s given a number of subtle chances to back out of the extra components of her marriage contract, though the dominion of twisted card players refuse to clue her in to the finer points. “She’ll never be one of us.”

“Who cares what they think. They’re horrible people.” In the vein of “You’re Next,” “Get Out,” and “The Purge,” along with the grandfather of people-hunting pictures, “The Most Dangerous Game,” this latest hybrid of survival horror, home invasion, and revenge fantasy boasts a considerable amount of humor to balance the terror. Perpetually frowning, heavily-lined Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) is a touch too obvious, popping up for the occasional jump-scare or for a comical glare of censure. In a more normal world (or one set in ancient times), her behavior, as well as Alex’s failure to explain the family’s midnight tradition – on the newlywed’s first night together, no less – would be nonsensical (and highly inconvenient). Grace’s embracing of a permanently spooky mansion, which she’s never toured, is also suspect. The sensibility of the premise is flimsy at best. But it’s evident early on that, as a gore-soaked horror/thriller, the bride and groom aren’t meant to have a well-detailed relationship (there is, in fact, no real information about the origins of their romance); they’re mere pawns in an unforgiving rite of passage. Unfortunately, during a few sequences, the improbable elements of their union will distance viewers from getting emotionally involved in the plight.

The nuances of Grace’s upbringing in foster families (lending to her longing for a family), paired with the notes on how persuasive and influential family members can be, contribute to a nice start, though these elucidations disappear quickly. The plot really begins to fall apart when sportsmanship dissolves, a respect for customs is abandoned, weapons are assigned seemingly at random, motives for participation are called into question, and when the conditions of the hunt continually change for the sake of advantage. There aren’t actually any firm rules to follow, which makes the various traditions pointless. Even the genre of game choices has no precise correspondence. “You pulled the one bad card.”

Fortunately, Weaving exudes the right level of hysteria, fear, and anger (despite an early line in which she reiterates her love for a man who just embroiled her in a deathtrap), creating the one truly sympathetic role who can muster cheers (she’s the kind of character who has audiences yelling at the screen) as she battles the curiously unprepared, inexperienced, uncomfortable killers. Also to its credit, “Ready or Not” succeeds in generating tension and humor in an alternating fashion, blasting a rousing selection of music, displaying plenty of practical gore (Grace’s alabaster dress steadily grows redder as it’s soiled by bodily fluids), and unleashing an appropriate level of vengeance on the insanity that surrounds her – even when the film disappointingly digresses from its fight-and-flight suspense for an implausible Michael Myers-type of stalking or the aggravating abandoning of useful weapons. A remarkably strong ending also fixes many of the storyline and pacing issues.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10