Ready or Not is proof that you don’t need to have some convoluted plot to be an entertaining and effective horror-comedy.
This gem from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and starring Samara Weaving, Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody is a dark, clever and hilarious movie that will have you squirming from the tension one moment and then cackling the next.
It’s a delicate balance, one that Ready or Not pulls off with aplomb.
The premise is simple: Grace (Weaving) is about to marry her boyfriend of 18 months, Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), who belongs to the uber-wealthy Le Domas family who made their untold riches from board games.
Alex has been estranged from his family for some time but he has returned to their gothic mansion for the wedding. The night of their betrothal, Alex springs a surprise on Grace.
The Le Domases, led by patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny) and matriarch Becky (MacDowell), have a family ritual of the utmost importance when someone new joins the clan — at midnight, everyone gathers in a room lined with hunting trophies and weapons and they sit down at a pentagonal table.
Then the newbie — in this case, Grace — pulls a card out of a special box a Le Domas ancestor received from a mysterious benefactor and source of the family’s wealth, Mr Le Bial. The card will decide the game the family will now play.
Charity (Elyse Levesque) and Fitch (Kristian Bruun), the spouses of Alex’s brother Daniel (Brody) and sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) tell Grace they pulled out chess and Old Maid. But when Grace’s card reads Hide and Seek, everyone goes quiet, especially Alex.
As far as Grace knows, it’s a simple playground game in the Le Domas’ Cluedo mansion, as if Vincent Price could pop out of a hidden door at any moment. Instead, it’s a ritualistic life-or-death hunt performed in the name of some pact with the devil.
Remember, the most dangerous game is man.
That’s the gist of Ready or Not, a cat-and-mouse game with malfunctioning dumb waiters, misfiring ancient crossbows and an operatic butler as Grace desperately tries to stay alive until dawn — and it’s utterly, deliciously delightful.
In between the macabre fun and games is a scathing critique of the decrepitness of the crazy rich.
It’s not just that Emilie and Fitch almost missed this mandatory family activity because their charter flight was late leaving Charles de Gaulle (because, obviously, the real horror is flying commercial), it’s that total disregard for anyone else outside of the family in their desperation to hold onto the shiny baubles.
When the youngest Le Domas kids run around with grotesque masks, yelling “Kill! Kill!” as you know there’s no saving this system.
Ready or Not’s parallels between the Le Domases and the stretching wealth gap could not be more relevant to our times.
Weaving makes for a formidable heroine and her look of the tattered wedding dress, the Converses and the blood will hopefully be iconic. Brody’s performance as Daniel, the reluctant brother, is a nice reminder that he really should be a more steady presence on our screens.
And Canadian actor Bruun is always good for his comedic timing.
Ready or Not was made on a relatively low budget and it’s one of this year’s surprising hits. It’s at times derivative but it knows this leans into it — the Agatha Christie references come down like a sledgehammer.
It’s wildly entertaining and at a tight 90 minutes, it crackles with energy, never letting your attention waver. A guaranteed fun time.
Ready or Not is in cinemas from Thursday, October 24
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