New bride Grace (Samara Weaving) feels like she's in a fairy tale wedding Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) at the palatial estate of his family. But the eccentric Le Domases, who made their fortune in board games, have a weird wedding tradition requiring Grace to draw a card at midnight that will determine a game they will all play. The rare 'Hide and Seek' card may seem innocent, but Grace will be plunged into a nightmare when her in-laws call "Ready or Not."
2016 produced a rarity, a horror anthology that was actually good. Now, with a script by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy, the filmmaking collective Radio Silence behind "Southbound" (co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett with producer Chad Villella) return with a Fox Searchlight release and I'm sorry to report it's a major disappointment. The story of a young bride whose husband played the odds and is now trying to save her from his superstition-bound family isn't scary OR funny. It's like watching someone else play a boring
game of Clue with gore thrown in.
A prologue accomplishes two things, showing us what Grace is in for if she pulls the 'Hide and Seek' card and establishing Alex's relationship with older brother Daniel (Adam Brody), who protects Alex from witnessing the mayhem when the card was last pulled decades earlier on Aunt Helene's (Nicky Guadagni) wedding night. Ignoring the more global superstition of it being bad luck for a groom to see his bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony, Alex acknowledges Grace's concerns about his family and offers her an out. Grace, whose foster home experience has her yearning for inclusion, not wealth, doesn't pick up on the danger signals in Alex's weak proposal. The gleefully profane bride-to-be is reassured before the ceremony by her equally earthy future mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell), who unlike Le Domas patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny), actually welcomes her into the family.
Grace finds her wedding night interrupted when malevolent Aunt Helene appears in their bedroom from a secret servants' hall, one which will figure into the evening's activities. Gathered in a private room only accessible to family members, Grace notes the myriad hunting trophies and antique weapons of the fortune's founder while Tony explains how he won it in a bet with a 'Mr. Le Bail' with the condition that they perform the traditional ritual of choosing a card to play a game admitting new family members. (We've seen Le Bail's demonic face on several board games named after him, so it is easy enough to guess where all of this is going.)
At first giggling, then grumping, Grace deposits herself in a dumb waiter unaware that the entire family has armed themselves with crossbows, firearms and a battle axe, Alex secured in a room guarded by Dan's gold digging wife Charity (Elyse Levesque). The palatial home's security system cameras are turned off, but the house is locked down. Grace won't cotton on until, bored waiting to be found, she emerges only to be yanked into a room by Alex, who's escaped via the secret hall. That's when she witnesses her coked up new sister-in-law Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) shoot her son's nanny by mistake. Only now does Alex explain just how lethal her situation is, tasking her with meeting him in the kitchen while he goes off to unlock access out of the house.
The entire point of "Ready or Not" is that the rich are, indeed, different, regarding anyone not in their financially elevated circle as subhuman. The three nannies and housemaids, introduced earlier looking like backup dancers from Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love' video, may as well be clay pigeons. Unfortunately, characterization overall is not a strong point here, only Brody suggesting any depth at all. Czerny and especially Guadagni are leering psychopaths, while Scrofano and Bruun (as Emilie's husband, Le Domas son-in-law Fitch) are what lamely pass for comic relief. It is notable that Grace faces her stiffest challenges from Stevens (John Ralston), the family butler, rather than any family members,
suggesting what exactly? That the rich are incompetent? That servants sell their souls for no return?
There is one exception, an unexpected (to some) assault above the gruesome 'goat pit.' And Weaving makes for a solid final girl, albeit not one we get to know enough to root for all that enthusiastically. The film's best aspect is the Le Domas estate itself, one which could have used a few more secret passages, creepy paintings or other quirky details. The film's finale is a cop out, its oddly vampiric nature its only notable aspect.
Robin did not see this film.
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