Ready or Not

Ready or Not ★★★★

Just married into the Le Domas Family Dominion, newlywed bride Grace finds herself tied into a game of chance as part of her new family’s wedding night tradition. Since the Le Domas Family earned their massive fortune through games, they host a customary gathering and game night every time a new member joins their family. Inside their mansion at midnight, everyone takes a seat at the table in the game room, and Grace (Samara Weaving), being the newest relative, has to draw a random card to determine which game they will play that evening. However, there’s just one catch. One of those cards, namely the one for the game hide and seek, has special rules behind it. If that specific card is drawn, according to the family’s ancestors, the game must end in human sacrifice or else the family will perish by dawn. In 2019’s Ready or Not, hide and seek becomes more than just a game, it’s a fight for survival, and Grace just happens to be unlucky enough to draw it. Thus, she’ll have to find a way to survive the night and escape her crazy new in-laws while quickly coming to terms with the fact that she has clearly married into the wrong family.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Ready or Not is a frantic and fun-filled fight to the finish against a fiendish and feverish family of fools. It’s an experience filled with laughs, light horror, and lots of gore as the Le Domas Family races against the clock to find and slay the new bride in order to escape their possibly perilous fate. Grace, on the other hand, has to figure out a way to hide, flee, or fight. She’s pulled aside at the start and briefed on the rules by her new husband Alex (Mark O’Brien), who expresses his regret in getting her involved in this ordeal, and who devises a plan to help her stay alive. Alex, refusing to help hunt his wife, heads for the control room in an attempt to override the locks on the doors and windows to give Grace a way out. In the meantime, she’ll have to learn to adapt to the rules while being hunted by almost a dozen members of the Le Domas Family.

This bloody, black comedy, gothic horror features a memorable cast of characters and some surprisingly impressive performances. The acting is better than you would expect from this type of film, and Samara Weaving in particular is fantastic. Starring as Grace, she genuinely gives one of my favorite female performances of the year, with her character being cunning, candid and courageously cool. She’s smart, and easy to cheer for as she fends for herself with a no-holds-barred effort to survive. It’s enjoyable to watch her increasingly acclimate to her dire situation and keep pushing herself further than thought possible to stay alive, even if it means becoming just as savage as her pursuers. Adam Brody also earned my respect and full attention with his performance as Daniel, Grace’s new brother-in-law who seems completely conflicted over whether or not he should help his family in their hunt. He and Alex both add a lot of uncertainty about who you can trust, and the film is certainly full of twists and turns and treacherous betrayals.

The rest of the supporting cast is impressive as well, and they all play well-developed and interesting characters. You have the parents of the groom, Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell), who serve as the fortunate heads of the family trying to uphold tradition. Then there’s the hysterically psycho and creepy Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), who is undoubtedly the most sinister person among them. Armed with an axe and ice cold stares, this old lady is a real crowd-pleaser. Then there’s the comical couple of Fitch (Kristian Bruun) and his cocaine addict wife Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) who provide most of the film’s humor. Daniel’s deranged wife, Charity (Elyse Levesque) rounds out the rest of the main players and family members, and there’s truly not a weak link among them. Additionally there’s a butler, a handful of maids, and even a couple of kids that are also in on the hunt.

Part of the movie’s diabolically delightful charm is its comedy combined with its mystery. The family believes that they are cursed and that if they don’t perform a sacrificial ritual with the bride, they’ll be dead by dawn due to a deal with the figurative devil. It’s a tradition they’ve held for generations, but none of them know if any of it is actually true. Failure to comply with the rules could prove deadly, so after arming themselves with ancient weapons and antiquated pistols, the family unequivocally seeks to kill. Are they all just completely crazy or are they sincerely cursed? The uncertainty behind it all simply adds to the fun.

Even though I rarely laughed out loud, I was amused by the film’s humor, and I get the feeling that I’ll enjoy both the comedy and the movie as a whole even more a second time around. It’s an impressive production, with some well-crafted camera work and a unique style. I enjoyed the intricate set design of the creepy, gothic Le Domas estate which is lit almost entirely by candlelight. The costume design and musical score are also well done, and the movie has a perfectly suited moody and classical ambiance.

Grace’s fight for survival from her fierce and fanatical in-laws in Ready or Not is an incredibly entertaining affair. It’s a dark and devilish endeavor into the unexpected obstacles of marriage in the form of a tense and terrifying game of cat and mouse. This movie is sure to become a comedy horror classic, and its iconic closing shot is arguably the best ending I’ve seen all year. If you’re okay with witnessing buckets of bloodshed and some occasional grisly violence, then I fully recommend checking out Ready or Not. It’s an exciting and highly entertaining survival thriller that will have you screaming, “Run away, bride!”

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