‘Ready or Not’: runs out of gas but not gore
Cult status seems assured for Ready or Not, a pitch-black comedy about a wedded bliss that goes amiss shortly after vows are exchanged. It’s a family tradition, and it’s a matter of life or death – literally.
The bride is Grace (Samara Weaving), and the groom is Alex (Mark O’Brien), the latter descended from a wildly wealthy family whose fortune was made creating board games with, perhaps, a little supernatural assistance. It’s a long-standing tradition that whoever marries into the Le Domas family must play a game on the wedding night. Good-natured Grace agrees, only to have the bad luck to draw hide and seek.
The rules are simple: She must hide somewhere in the house, which is certainly enormous enough, and the family must find her. And if they do, they must kill her – lest their souls be damned. The Guy Busick/Ryan Murphy script, their first feature, isn’t too clear on this point.
Some family members, like scowling Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), are raring to go, and it’s only appropriate that her weapon of choice is a battleax. Others, like Alex’s dissipated brother Daniel (Adam Brody), are ashamedly reluctant. His and Alex’s parents, Tony and Becky (Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell, respectively), are of the opinion the family that slays together stays together. (A silly pun, to be sure, but not inappropriate in this context.)
Thus begins Grace’s fight for survival, which gets a little easier when her more eager pursuers begin offing servants – and even each other — by mistake. As for handsome hubby Alex, he’s appropriately torn between his new bride and his family, but he’ll come around in the end. To which side cannot be revealed, of course.
As nerves fray and tempers fly, things get more and more violent. Yet as bloodied and battered as the cast gets, the actors all look as if they’re having a blast, and their zeal is rather infectious. There’s a little social commentary here, and more than a little satire, but Ready or Not opts for the lowest-common-denominator approach.
The film, co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (of the Radio Silence filmmaking collective), certainly looks good, with stylish cinematography by Brett Jutkiewicz and Andrew M. Stearn’s impressive production design (his feature debut).
By the third act, the story basically jettisons all nuance and logic, barreling toward its finale with reckless abandon. It’s a little disappointing that the filmmakers would fall back on a tried-and-true blood-and-guts formula, but at least they don’t allow the momentum to flag. Ready or Not may be silly, but it’s never dull – and there’s nary a wasted moment.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2019, Mark Burger.