'Ready or Not' Review: A Classic Sleepover Fright Flick
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Hidden within a basic premise is a grand mythology that demands a franchise.
There are two films here. The one we got: where Grace (Samara Weaving) marries Alex (Mark O’Brien) and becomes prey to his family looking to seal the deal on a demonic pact after she selected the dreaded “Hide And Seek” card during their midnight consummation ritual. The one we didn’t get: where Grace pulls the “Chess” card instead and the family sacrifices a goat in her stead while Alex explains her new commitment to their dark overlord. I am obsessed with the idea of that second, unmade film. Would she come around? What would you do for the security of endless wealth? What would I do? The film we did not get is as equally compelling and horrific as the one we did, and its lingering possibilities only go to heighten the premise of Ready or Not.
The longer billionaires sit in office and rule over our daily lives, the compulsion to join their ranks or tear them to bloody shreds increases. The status quo is poisonous. We scramble to earn a living and pay for the continued existence of our families. The rich beam into our households every day, shimmering bright false smiles from our television and phone screens, and their happiness cuts deep swathes into our psyche. We want what they got. So, deals with Satan don’t seem that harsh compared to a stack of Past Due bills.
Samara Weaving has very little time to establish her character before the appearance of axes, elephant guns, and crossbows. After a brief prologue setting the violent history of the Le Domas Gaming dynasty, scratch that - dominion, we meet her already strapped into a wedding dress. Her in-laws stare at her with toothy grins and glazed, alcoholic glares, but she steps to the altar with a skip. Clearly, she adores Alex. He gives her one last out, an option to run to the hills, but a youth spent in loveless foster homes keeps her feet glued to the runway. She pushed his hand to the proposal, and there is no stopping the bridal train. Well, maybe a good dose of truth would have changed her mind, but his withholding of such crucial information is all you need to know about his character. Cupid’s arrow has struck, but your first love belongs to the clan that raised you. Romance is weaponized, and Grace is in for a whole night of hurt.
Before the usual physical act of union can be performed, her new family comes knocking on their bedroom door. Alex then starts his explanation of their wacky tradition, and Weaving’s delighted mixture of eye-roll and glee towards the odd request firmly invests the audience in her survival. Grace is a come-along, go-along kind of pleaser. She’s on cloud nine, and nothing is bringing her down; not even a late-night magic trick surrounded by ravenous partygoers.
The “Hide and Seek” card is nabbed from the deck, the family grits their teeth, and send her on her way. The rules are simple and a bit of a bore: stay hidden till dawn and you win. She finds her spot early on and becomes immediately restless with the shenanigans. Then she witnesses a maid accidentally slain in her place, and the hunt erupts.
The Le Domas family provides every flavor of wretched antagonist for Grace to endure. As head of the household, Henry Czerny (my beloved Mr. Kittridge) is an unlikable, untrustworthy scavenger of a person. He has a feebly, regretful manner to his murderous approach as if each swing from his ax carries a guilty apology. Andie MacDowell, the matriarch, doesn’t question the path of her piercing arrows, but she kills for the sake of her children and she earns your respect through that unconditional love. Adam Brody is Alex’s self-loathing sibling, and only by the saving grace of nips from a flask can he pull the trigger anymore. Little sister (Melanie Scrofano) sees his addiction and raises him a few bumps of cocaine, and as a result, her coups de grâce reverberate with an Urkle-like “Did I do that?” The star evangelist, though, has to be Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) and her hateful scowl cranked to eleven. She is a believer, and her zealotry brings more terror than a dozen Clue game pieces.
Ready or Not is an energetic fright flick that will live on in sleepover basements for decades to come. Screenwriters Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy construct a thin narrative that surprisingly loosens its belt to reveal a big potbelly of mythology. As Grace turns corners, confronting goat pits and ancients sigils, as well as knife-wielding maniacs, you realize that a Ready or Not franchise could get as wild as the John Wick sequels. The film we got is a damn good ride, but the film we did not get, and the one we’ll probably get in the not too distant future, is just as haunting. The mysteries on the fringes of Ready or Not need answering, and I’ll wait politely for them to be addressed by the final member of the Le Domas dominion, or by another family clan.