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Ready or Not
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Runaway Bride"
4 stars

The history of cinema is filled with weddings that have not gone exactly to plan but I cannot immediate recall one that has gone as gruesomely sideways as the one that kicks off “Ready or Not.” If you can imagine a combination of “Clue,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Get Out” that has been further spiced up with equal amounts of grisly violence and jet-black humor, you will have at least some idea of what to expect from this wild and frequently entertaining horror-comedy. Those going into it expecting something along the lines of an typical romantic fairy tale will no doubt be appalled by it all (though at least it won’t take too long for them to discover their mistake) but those in the mood for some late-summer weirdo fun of the bloodiest kind after three months dominated by retreads, remakes and sequels are likely to kick a kick out f it.

The film is centered around the Le Domas family, who have made their fortune in board games and who now live in the lap of luxury in a massive and naturally remote mansion. Now the family has gathered to watch prodigal son Alex (Mark O’Brien) get married to his girlfriend, Grace (Samara Weaving). While waiting for the ceremony to begin, Grace is naturally apprehensive—although she seems to have gotten off well with her future mother-in-law, Becky (Andie MacDowell), she is convinced that the rest of the family sees her as nothing more than a gold-digger, especially new father-in-law Tony (Henry Czerny)—but she loves both Alex and, as a foster child herself, the idea of becoming a part of a real family at last. The wedding goes off without a hitch but after the guests have left and the clock approaches midnight, Alex and Grace, who has not even taken off her wedding dress yet, are summoned to the game room to join the others.

Not surprisingly, the Le Domas family is one steeped in traditions and one involves anyone who winds up joining the family. They are required to pick a card from an ancient contraption acquired long ago by an ancestor and play whatever game is inscribed on the card. Willing to do anything to get in good with her new family’s graces, Grace ends up picking the card reading “Hide and Seek” and is sent off to find someplace to conceal herself. What she does not know is that the family believes that their fortunes are tied into this particular ritual and that when the Hide and Seek card is pulled, they play for keeps—going after her with knives, guns and even a crossbow in order to find and kill her before dawn, lest the entire family be destroyed by a satanic curse if they fail. This sounds absurd, of course, but they certainly believe it and when Grace seems Alex’s coked-up sister (Melanie Scrofano) accidentally shoot one of the servants by mistake (which soon grows into a running joke), she finally leans that this is not a game after all and with Alex incapacitated, she is determined to survive the night as well by any mean necessary.

It is ironic that we have just gone through that nonsense involving “The Hunt”—the once-upcoming blatant knockoff of “The Most Dangerous Game” that became such a political hot potato thanks to the recent string of mass shootings and MAGAheads who somehow convinced themselves that it was against them (despite all evidence suggesting otherwise), that it was pulled from the release schedule entirely—when “Ready or Not” is a far more blatant satirical condemnation of the fabled 1% and their perceived attitudes towards anyone who they think is even contemplating coming anywhere near their ostentatious wealth and privilege. Trust me, I am not reading way too much into this particular scenario—the screenplay by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy is not exactly subtle in this regard. Between that and the implicit commentary on feminism in regards to the entire tradition of marriage, this film could fuel an entire semester’s worth of term papers for any media studies class. The mix of genre nastiness and social commentary may not always work and it may not be particularly subtle by any means but when it does work—which is more often than not—it puts one in the mind of the oftentimes ingenious pastiches that the late Larry Cohen used to crank out back in the day.

At the same time, “Ready or Not” is pretty much a success even if you aren’t going into it looking for think piece fodder. Busick and Murphy’s screenplay manages to keep its bizarre conceit going for pretty much its entire running time without running out of steam and there are plenty of juicy bit of acid-dipped dialogue on display delivered with lip-smacking relish by the cast. The direction by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillet (whose previous feature effort was the slightly less impressive “Rosemary’s Baby” knockoff “Devil’s Due”) due an effective job of mining the material for both laughs and jumps and doing so in a stylishly grubby manner. As Grace, Weaving, who has been around for a few years without having quite broken through (she was the girlfriend of Frances McDormand’s ex in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and whose resemblance to fellow Australian Margot Robbie is borderline disconcerting at times, is an absolute blast in what should hopefully prove to be a star-making role for her. The supporting cast, which includes Adam Brody as Adam’s black sheep brother and Nicky Guadagni as the elderly and imperious Aunt Helene, is killer as well, appropriately. As for the bloodshed, let us just say that there is a lot of it on display, thought it is presented with such wit and style that even those who don’t usually enjoy excessive gore int their entertainment may be amused by the carnage on display here.

“Ready or Not” is goofy and inconsequential and probably works best if you don’t think too deeply about it. Nevertheless, it has been made with plenty of wit and style, two elements that have been largely missing in this summer’s movies, and as a result, it is likely to stick in the mind long after those other behemoths have faded from memory. If nothing else, considering its cheerfully jaundiced attitude toward rituals and rules of all types, including marriage, I have a sneaky suspicion that we have finally found the one film that could legitimately play on a double bill with “Midsommar.”

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originally posted: 08/21/19 05:38:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/28/20 David Hollingsworth A fun, bloody, and entertaining ride! 5 stars
12/10/19 Grace's Knickers Hella fun movie...laughed from start to finish 5 stars
8/28/19 Bob Dog Wobbled out of the gate, but finished strong. 4 stars
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  21-Aug-2019 (R)
  DVD: 03-Dec-2019


  DVD: 03-Dec-2019

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