Ready or not, let the games begin! The directors of “V/H/S,” Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, have upped their game with the intense horror-thriller “Ready or Not” starring Samara Weaving, Andy MacDowell, Mark O’Brien, and Adam Brody.
As a new-comer to the Le Domas gaming mogul family, Grace (Weaving), on her wedding night, must participate in a game and as the card is dealt, Hide and Seek means that Grace must fight not just to win, but to live.
The premise sounds quite sinister, and it is. The patriarch of the family, through generations, has made a pact to play a game chosen by a long-deceased colleague, stating that any new additions to the family must play in return for wealth. From benign games like Old Maid and Checkers to the deadly card drawn of Hide and Seek, the family’s very life depends upon playing the game to its bitter end: Hide and Seek requires the target to be killed before dawn or the family will all die. Refuse to play and death knocks on your door.
Writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy masterfully set up the story, allowing us to get to know this young couple, Alex and Grace. She’s beautiful and he’s rich and they’re madly in love. Alex’s dismissal of his blue blood roots is endearing and Grace’s sad background of being raised by foster parents is equally engaging. They’re a match made in heaven, but can they endure the hell to come?
We also get to know each of the family members, appearing more like a caricatures of the rich and famous than shrewd business leaders. With Aunt Helene’s (Nicky Guadagni) permanent scowl as she lurks in every corner, Father’s (Henry Czerny) less-than-regal demeanor, and Emilie’s (Melanie Scrofano) need to be coddled by mummy and daddy, it’s a recipe for comedic disaster almost as if characters from the board game Clue just came to life.
The consequences are dire, but there are so many unexpected hilarious moments, too. These incredibly shocking situations are set up and timed to also bring an element of humor to the scene. Imagine laughing as a woman gets a crossbow through the throat! And yes, we root for the young bride to make it till dawn and question the curse or pact that this crazy family has operated under for a century or so. “Ready or Not” plays the ridiculous card at precisely the right time, too, as it questions the validity of the very premise of the story.
This is Grace’s story and Weaving carries it effortlessly. Her expressive eyes and her character’s resilience, intelligence, and survival instincts become more intensified as the story unfolds. While the remaining cast supports her, and they are caricatures, they aren’t so over-the-top that we are taken out of the context of the film. Alex’s big brother Daniel (Brody) is a bit of a cad, married to a power-hungry wife and Emelie’s juvenile behavior accentuated by her drug use typifies what we might envision that .1% to behave like. MacDowell brings a touch of southern charm and superficiality to her portrayal of a loving mother who sacrifices for her family, but it is Kristian Bruun’s depiction of Fitch that gives us a punch of humor no matter the situaiton. His comedic timing and delivery is sheer perfection.
The genre of horror blended with mystery, comedy, and thriller is a tough combination, but with great writing, cinematography, directing and more importantly, a cast who can deliver, “Ready or Not” is a film to please several palates. This tension-filled, disturbing, yet hilarious film expertly makes every move, pulling us in to the story as we root for Grace to conquer all. If you think you know how this ends, think again. It’s one surprise after another. Of course, as in any horror film, the special effects are a part of the story, but never does it over-power the film; it punctuates the situation just as it should.
“Ready or Not” is pure horrific fun and while we have seen the premise in many other movies, how they get to the final scene is filled with unexpected and mind-blowing situations.
The humor, standout performances, and skillful writing and directing makes “Ready or Not” a film to see.
3 1/2 out of 4 Stars