“Ready or Not” puts a darkly humorous spin on a childhood game but it isn’t the first horror film to use hide n’ seek as a plot device. The inventively titled short film “Hide & Shriek” sees a masked killer ruining the fun while “Emelie” features an evil babysitter who keeps the kids busy with a dangerous version of the game. The new film is a bloody satire with sly commentary about the lengths the 1% will do to keep their cash.
Upon marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien) Grace (Samara Weaving) becomes the newest member of the wealthy but weird Le Domas family. “You don’t belong in this family,” says drunk brother-in-law Daniel (Adam Brody). “I mean that as a complement.”
Her new in-laws, including disdainful father-in-law Tony (Henry Czerny), angry mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell), coke-head sister-in-law sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and her husband Fitch Bradley (Kristian Bruun), all heirs to a board game fortune, tell her the marriage won’t be complete until she partakes in a family ritual, a randomly selected midnight game. “It’s just something we do when someone new joins the family,” explains Alex.
The last time this tradition was carried out it took the form of a game of Old Maid. Unfortunately for Grace this time around the family chooses hide n’ seek. “You pulled up a bad card,” says Alex. “The truth is If they don’t kill you something very bad will happen.”
What begins as a lark turns lethal when Grace realizes that to ‘win’ she must first learn to navigate the Le Domas’s rambling old mansion, complete with trap doors and secret passageways. “When you marry into this family you have to play the game or you die. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.”
“Ready or Not” is a well-executed lo-fi thriller with an unusual premise and lots of creepy characters straight out of a game of “Clue.” For the most part Weaving plays it straight, even as she uses her wedding dress as a tourniquet, while the Le Domas family amps up the antics with broad performances driven by the belief that something terrible will happen if they don’t find Grace by first light. They’re a motley bunch, pseudo-aristocrats with an interest in the occult who don’t appear to have much in common except for the bond of family and a desire to stay alive. As old-money members of the 1% they believe they are above the law, able to indulge in their game (even if they’re not very good at it) because of some old family legend. In other words, as Daniel says, “It’s true what they say. The rich really are different.”
The surprisingly nasty third act gives “Ready or Not” the feel of a future cult classic, a crowd-pleaser with some laughs and a giddily gory climax.