Weddings can be intense, panic-inducing experiences. That’s just a fact. However, once the actual event’s over, the guests have departed, and the cake has been eaten, life usually returns to a semi-normal state. That’s not the case in Ready or Not, a deliciously wicked horror film from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Devil’s Due, V/H/S).
Grace (Samara Weaving) is deeply in love with Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) but nervous about joining his uber-rich family. They’re definitely members of the 1% and she grew up poor in foster care. Alex has been estranged from his family, but his wedding has given the Le Domas family a chance to reconnect. The idea of marrying Grace without his family present is inconceivable, so Alex is forced back into the family mansion for a small, formal wedding.
Given the fact Alex isn’t particularly close with anyone except his brother, Daniel (Adam Brody), it’s initially difficult to understand why he’d subject his bride-to-be to their unnerving attention. However, the reason Alex is not just expected but required to exchange his vows at the family estate quickly emerges.
There’s a wedding tradition that goes back to the very beginnings of the family dynasty and it cannot be ignored. The consequences of disobeying the rules are fatal…at least according to family legend.
The Le Domas family’s wealth stems from playing cards and board games, and anyone marrying into the family must participate in a game on their wedding night. A card is pulled from a special box by the new addition to the family and whatever game is listed is the game that’s played. Normally it’s a game of Old Maid or chess, but occasionally the bride or groom pulls the Hide and Seek card.
Unfortunately for Grace, she pulls the Hide and Seek card without understanding the consequences. Before Alex can explain, the hunt is on. Grace good-naturedly hides in a dumbwaiter, hoping to be found quickly. Meanwhile, the Le Domas clan arm themselves with an odd assortment of weapons. Soon Grace is horrified to realize this game of Hide and Seek would more accurately be called Find and Kill.
Grace must die before dawn or the family will have hell to pay – literally.
Samara Weaving is fantastic as the new bride who goes from putting up with her in-laws’ nonsense to fighting for her life. Grace runs through the expected emotional stages before settling on rage at being forced to kill or be killed on her wedding night. She’s not about to go quietly, and she proves to be pretty ruthless when push comes to shove. Weaving gives a gloriously intense and surprisingly believable (given the bizarre premise) performance as the only seemingly sane person in a world gone mad.
Mark O’Brien and Adam Brody are terrific as brothers who deal with their family’s devotion to the Devil in different ways. Brody’s Daniel is resigned to going along with his father’s orders, turning to alcohol to dull his distaste for the hunt. O’Brien’s Alex failed to prepare his bride for the possibility she’d be on the receiving end of arrows and bullets, something Grace (and the audience) come to hold against the groom.
The family’s patriarch and matriarch are played by Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell. Tony Le Domas (Czerny) reveals the origin of the family’s wealth before the action begins, explaining to Grace why she must participate in this unusual tradition. Becky Le Domas (MacDowell) is less enthusiastic about the game, but just as committed to keeping the family alive by murdering Grace once the hunt gets underway. Czerny plays the fanatical father with a sort of delightful glee while MacDowell’s Becky is more grounded in reality and even a tad sympathetic toward Grace.
Members of the twisted family in on the hunt also include Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), Melanie Scrofano (Emilie), and Fitch (Kristian Bruun). Helene looks like a constipated angry eagle with an attitude to match. Guadagni’s lines are few and far between, but when Helene’s in the spotlight Guadagni’s biting delivery is brilliant. Scrofano’s Emilie spends the movie high on coke and randomly shooting at the wrong targets. Bruun’s Fitch is saddled with a crossbow he’s forced to find YouTube videos to learn how to shoot. The film’s infused with dark humor and Bruun and Scrofano provide most of the movie’s lighter moments.
Writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy’s script wickedly pokes fun at the wealthy who in 2019 are pretty much the perfect foil for a horror film. Busick and Murphy create absurd situations for these characters to endure and the blood/gore isn’t spared as the action ramps up.
The writing’s clever, the humor’s sharp, and the acting is outstanding all around. Ready or Not’s bloody entertaining and wicked fun.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use
Release Date: August 21, 2019
Running Time: 95 minutes