'Ready or Not' Is a Fun Horror About Games the Stupidly Rich Play Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O'Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell
Published Aug 21, 2019It's been over 30 years, and no film has been able to capture the same frantic energy and dark, campy humour as the original Clue, a box office disaster turned cult classic that made fantastic use of a murder mystery within a labyrinthian, absurdly ornate mansion. But Ready Or Not, a madcap cat-and-mouse game that's exhilaratingly fun and gleefully gory, sits neatly within that same spirit, and offers a darkly funny and satirical take on just how ridiculous the rich really are.
Grace (Samara Weaving) is harbouring a common concern for every bride-to-be on her wedding day: what if her new husband's family doesn't like her? Alex (Mark O'Brien) is in every way a devoted, adoring partner, but as the heir to the massive Le Domas Games fortune, his astronomically wealthy, eccentric parents, siblings and elderly aunt are suspicious that Grace might be an opportunistic gold digger.
Unfortunately, this isn't the only weird thing about the Le Domas brood: every time someone new marries into the family, decades-old tradition dictates that they must play one randomly assigned game together. Most of the time, this game ends up being something benign, like chess or Old Maid. Every so often, though, one much more sinister card is dispensed, forcing the bride or groom to play the deadliest game of all: Hide and Seek. A bemused Grace soon learns that this is far from a normal game of "ready or not, here I come": armed to the teeth with axes, guns and crossbows, the Le Domas's intend to hunt down and kill her to satisfy an ancient pact with the supernatural forces that keep them filthy rich.
Ready or Not succeeds at being a total blast on many levels, but the sets and performances are the glue that binds it together. A Neo-Gothic maze lit by candlelight with secret passages galore, eagle-eyed Torontonians will recognize the interior scenes of Ready Or Not as the famous Casa Loma. With its storied history of fabulously wealthy inhabitants, it's a fitting location for the kind of film that shows how the gratuitous trappings of the rich — who needs a modern home with working dumbwaiters? — can lead to their sharp downfall.
The Le Domas's don't even know how to find Grace in their own home without the help of security cameras, and the fact that so much of its nooks and crannies are a mystery makes it a delight to watch as the madness unfolds over creepy goat barns, endless hallways, spotlit fountains and god knows how many drawing rooms.
Samara Weaving, previously appearing in other gore-soaked horror comedies like The Babysitter and Mayhem, proves once again that she's an admirably gutsy, balls-to-the-wall Final Girl who fights like a banshee, even in a white wedding gown. Ready Or Not puts Grace through the ringer and then some — often weaponless, with only her grit and tenacity to save her. Her new husband Alex attempts to help her escape, but he's not much use either. Grace is more or less on her own, and her take-no-shit attitude, combined with her rage at being used by a family she hoped would become her own, makes her engaging and fascinating to watch.
It doesn't hit us over the head with it, but Ready or Not is a sly piss-take of the 1 percent, highlighting the greed and eccentricity that fuels a cowardly desire to stay on top of the social pyramid. Sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) is a manic cokehead, her husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun) is a moron, Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) is a homicidal maniac, and mom and dad Becky and Tony (Andie MacDowell and Henry Czerny) are grimly committed, but way over their heads. Only half-drunk brother Daniel (an entertainingly sarcastic Adam Brody) has some misgivings about the whole thing, a viewpoint not shared by his frigid wife Charity (Elyse Levesque). The Le Domas's are so rigidly tied to this ritual, and yet so blindly ill-prepared for it — they barely know how to use guns, never mind a century-old crossbow, and a recurring gag in which their gaggle of sexy French maids are accidentally and thoughtlessly murdered is a sardonic wink at how "the help" are utterly disposable.
But they're so insistent on their specialness, their divine right to be wealthy and powerful, that, until now, their privilege has excused them from ever learning to defend themselves. They've always been the hunters, but now, the irrepressible Grace, who we learn early on grew up in soundly middle-class foster homes, is the one hunting them.