Don’t Look For Tedious Comedy/Horror ‘Ready or Not’
Marrying into a rich family is supposed to be the dream. Sure, they’ll ask you do weird stuff like play a game with the whole family at midnight of your wedding night because they made their millions selling board games, but it’ll all be worth it when you retire on a beach on your own private island.
HIDE AND SEEK ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Written by: Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy
Starring: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, and Andie MacDowell
Running time: 95 min
But what if it turns out that you must play a game of hide and seek to the death to earn your place in the family? Then it’s time to say goodbye to that private island and kill your way back to the middle class. Ready or Not puts totally not-gold-digging Grace (Samara Weaving) in this position, but rather than giving her much to say about her predicament, she mostly ends up serving as a foil to a warped caricature of a wealthy American family.
On the night Grace marries Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), one of the heirs to the Le Domas board game dominion, he tells her that great grandfather Le Domas started the company with the help of a man he encountered on his travels by the name of Mr. Le Bail. If Le Domas could solve Le Bail’s puzzle box, he’d be in business so long as the family forced any future blood relations to play a random game that the box generates onto a blank playing card.
All the games are harmless fun like chess or checkers except for one. Drawing the Hide And Seek card means the Le Domas family must hunt and sacrifice the new member before sunrise, or the existing members of the Le Domas family are forfeit.
The premise never really rings true. Why is Alex putting the love of his life through all of this? Is there really evidence that deaths in his family that have kept the tradition alive out of fear could result from a curse by Le Bail? Was the possibility of drawing a card other than hide and seek realistically worth all the risk for Alex? Why does everyone’s last name start with “Le?”
Even giving Ready or Not writers Ryan Murphy (Minutes Past Midnight) and Guy Busick (Urge) the benefit of the doubt that the internal logic works, it still all feels like a self-contained sandbox for mayhem with little else going on.
Henry Czerny is the guy you keep on speed dial to play rich asshole salt-and-pepper fathers and he does his job here. Adam Brody is the guy you call in to play the distant, too-cool-for-this brother, and he does his job as well. I don’t know what they called Andie MacDowell for, but I’m glad she was there as a maternal figure through all of this.
Despite the best efforts of these noteworthy actors, the family members are all two-dimensional spouts of absurdist, classist one-liners. There’s also the cokehead klutz daughter, the cold bitch daughter-in-law, and the oafish son-in-law. All of that is fine if you give us some huge laughs or a three-dimensional protagonist.
Grace’s only arc is her increasing determination to survive and the alteration of her perception of Alex, which should’ve just irrevocably disintegrated the moment the hide and seek conceit was revealed. Very often too proud of its transformation of its heroine into Badass Bride Barbie, the film gives us no less than four instances of Grace intentionally ripping pieces of her wedding dress off for utility, including the cliché wrapping of a wound with it.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of blood and fun kills, expertly executed by V/H/S alumni Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin in the directors’ chairs. Most of the marketing for this film has showcased the graphic murders, and with good reason. They’re unquestionably the stars of this show.
Ready or Not never really decides if it wants to be Clue or You’re Next, but it certainly doesn’t do comedy well enough to be memorable like Clue nor does it wield narrative misdirection, shocking violence, and horror final girl as well as You’re Next.
Despite all of that, Ready or Not stumbles to a surprisingly satisfying conclusion, which will be remembered as its saving grace, along with its methodical destruction of a bridal gown.