What do you get when you mix an unsuspecting bride with a sadistic family of incredibly wealthy inlaws, who play a certain childhood game with a deadly twist in order to keep the fortune that they probably acquired from a deal with the devil himself?
Apparently, you get a pretty great movie.
“Ready or Not,” directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a girl who bounced between foster homes her whole life. Grace has now found love, stability, and a new family after marrying Alex Le Domas, played by Mark O’Brien, at his family’s massive estate.
Her dream of having a family of her own is finally coming true. As the happy couple are about to begin their married life together, she learns that it is an essential tradition of this family to play a game whenever a newcomer joins the clan.
Though surprised, Grace thinks little of it and picks a card which indicates what game they must play. To her amusement — but to her new husband’s horror — she picks the card labeled “Hide-and-Seek.”
Apparently the Le Domas family, who became wealthy due to the success of their gaming business, is obligated to make sacrifices to the devil to keep their wealth. Unbeknownst to Grace, one of their required sacrifices is the death of any new member of the family who is discovered when playing Hide-and-Seek.
As Grace runs off to hide, totally unaware of these deadly rules, the rest of the Le Domas family, except for her devastated husband, deck themselves out with 19th-century weaponry and patiently wait for the Hide-and-Seek song to end so that they may begin their hunt.
“Ready or Not” is a tightly filmed, well-paced, wickedly comedic and beautifully designed film that has enough social commentary and religious symbolism to fill many hours of analytical discussion.
Social commentary itself is not uncommon in horror movies, but what is uncommon is how restrained, yet poignant and nuanced, the commentary is in this particular film.
The writers and actors go out of their way to make their characters and the moral dilemmas more complex, instead of choosing to pummel the audience over the head with a false dichotomy of wealth and tradition.
There is no lack of religious symbolism in this film either. Grace is forced to play a satanic game in which she must overcome the servants of evil, however unwitting they are.
The set design and lighting in this film are all top-of-the-line. Filmed on-site at the marvelous Casa Loma mansion in Toronto, Canada, the production crew and directing team provoked a dark and mysterious feeling throughout the film, without sacrificing the visual integrity or fluidity of the cinematography. The pure filming aesthetic on display alone ought to please most viewers familiar with the horror genre.
The members of the Le Domas family are all unique, with memorable characterizations. These aren’t just black-and-white bad guys or creepy cult members. They are modern people with eccentric personalities who are simply doing what their parents taught them to do, making for some incredibly witty scenes filled with confusion, mayhem and lots of laughs for the audience.
However, aside from some solid writing, sharp commentary, and creative cinematography, the strongest part of this film is, by far, Weaving’s performance as Grace.
Weaving grounds the movie throughout its most ridiculous moments when the writing would otherwise seem repetitive, propels the plot forward and drives the best points of the film to new and greater heights with her intensely likable, realistic and spunky performance.
No, this film is not for everybody. If you don’t like horror movies in the slightest and hate seeing any amount of gore, you will not have a great time at this movie.
Moviegoers who want to see an intriguing, entertaining and darkly comedic film — that is sure to be the topic of many interesting conversations to follow — will have a fantastically tense time at “Ready or Not.”