Ready or Not

Ready or Not ★★★★★

As soon as I heard that there was an upcoming summer movie about a blonde bride in a wedding dress hiding inside a lavish mansion while her new husband's wealthy family hunts her down with crossbows and vintage guns, I was in like Flynn. I love Richard Connell's 1924 short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”, and all of its subsequent film adaptations. I love movies about people who use crossbows as weapons. I love stories about families and societies with lifestyles that defy typical social conventions. Finally, I love cinematic depictions of extravagant decadence, going all the way back to Jean Renoir's classic 1939 satire, The Rules of the Game.

After having lived in foster homes during her younger years, Grace, played wonderfully by Samara Weaving, is overjoyed at the thought of belonging to a family at long last. Her wedding to Alex, played by Mark O'Brien, will bring her into the fold of the Le Domas clan, an empire built on board games. She is not worried by the unusually hesitant and troubled mannerisms of the groom in the minutes leading up to the ceremony, nor is she bothered by the dismissive fake politeness of his relatives, who are played by the likes of Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, and Kristian Bruun.

Soon after the nuptials, however, Grace is brought into the Le Domas family room, seated at a table in the middle of hunting trophy decorations, and informed that she must undergo one final ritual before being accepted by them as one of their own. She must participate in a game that is chosen at random from a deck of cards. Her initial amusement at having drawn a “Hide and Seek” card soon turns to terror when she discovers that this game will end in bloodshed before the break of dawn.

The silver lining behind the grisly predicament suffered by our bride protagonist in the 2019 thriller, Ready or Not, which was directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, is that, even if the worst case scenario plays out and she is slaughtered by her eccentric in-laws before the night is over, her marriage will have outlasted those of many modern American couples. Since Grace is a likable and instantly relatable character, however, I assume that most viewers will, like me, want to see her triumph against seemingly impossible odds. At its core, this is a gripping horror-mystery, with comedic flourishes thrown into the recipe, that explores the tried-and-true film tropes of underdog resilience in the face of the uncaring privileged.

When you marry someone, you are marrying that person's family as well. This notion is unnerving enough to merit scares all its own in the real world. Most brides and bridegrooms do not step into a world of murder, decapitation, gruesome religious rites, and fiery mayhem, but every person's adventure has pitfalls all its own. When all is said and done, and we are looking at the blood-splattered face and tattered dress of Samara Weaving's Grace on the screen, we all hope that we will emerge with far less trauma if and when we make that love-blinded step into the unknown.

Ready or Not is trash cinema through and through, but it is my kind of trash cinema. This movie has my highest recommendation.

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