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Ready or Not (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Ready or Not


Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni, John Ralston, Liam MacDonald, Ethan Tavares, Hanneke Talbot, Celine Tsai, Daniela Barbosa, Chase Churchill, Etienne Kellici, Andrew Anthony, Elana Dunkelman, Kate Ziegler, James Eddy, Adam Winlove-Smith and Alan Richardson.

Screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight. 95 minutes. Rated R.

The makers of Ready or Not could not seem to decide whether they wanted their movie to be a pitch-black dark comedy about the obscenely rich, an old-fashioned parlor mystery, or a grisly horror film. Therefore, they made it all three things at once, and therefore it doesn’t really work on any of the levels. It almost feels like what would happen if Ari Aster or Quentin Tarantino at their most self-indulgently bloody directed a remake of Clue, but without the good dialogue.

The comic and satirical parts work best, by far, but they are overwhelmed by the buckets and buckets of blood as the film spins further and further out of control in the last 30 minutes. And it’s kind of a shame, the comic parts of this actually did work pretty well. The film had a good amount of uncomfortable laughter in the early sections. The movie even ends with a pretty decent punchline.

The concept is brilliant at the same time as it really makes no real sense at all if you think about it too much. An über-rich family which made its fortune creating games has a tradition of following any family marriages with a family game night. Of course, their idea of a family game night is different than most people’s. It’s more like a “Most Dangerous Game” night. The family gathers together a bunch of vintage weapons and the new spouse must hide in their cavernous manor and try to avoid being killed before sunrise while his or her new in-laws hunt them.

And the spouse can’t know what is happening until it is happening. As far as they are concerned, they just think it’s a normal game of hide and seek, at least until they are running for their lives.

The unlucky bride is Grace (Samara Weaving), a beautiful working-class girl with no family who is looking forward to living with the man of her dreams, Alex (Mark O’Brien), as well as taking on a big extended family. Alex is somewhat estranged from his family – mostly because he knows how crazy they are and about all of their mad rituals.

Which makes you wonder – if he supposedly loves Grace, why would he put her through all this? Haven’t they ever heard of eloping? Wouldn’t he at least warn her?

Ready or Not explains all this away – sort of – with a series of rationalizations which may be true, or may be crazy, may be cheating, or may just be delusional. Apparently, a family ancestor sold his soul to the devil, guaranteeing the family live in luxury as long as they are willing to occasionally sacrifice a new member of the clan. However, if the target survives to the dawn, the entire family will supposedly die.

In fairness, apparently the “Hide and Seek” game rarely happens, and all of the other games the family plays after weddings are much more benign. This is the first time the family has had to deal with the hunt in about three decades.

I know they felt the need to create a mythology for their film, however instead of explaining away the massive plot holes, instead it just makes the ridiculousness of the situation more blatant. The more the story explains, the less sense it makes. The more action it shows, the less interesting it becomes. I’d like to believe that the moviemakers here had so much more that a splatter fest in mind. However, their darkly subversive qualities are eventually drowned in a literal pool of blood.

Which is a shame, because a lot of Ready or Not is very darkly funny. Had they just given in to the ridiculousness of the premise and made it a scary, funny fable about the haves and the have-nots in the Trump era, Ready or Not would have been a better film. It’s still not bad, but it could have been so much better.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: August 23, 2019.

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