Ready or Not
The bloody comedy Ready or Not imagines the worst wedding night ever, as petite blonde bride Grace learns that the game of Hide and Seek that her new husband family’s insists on playing at midnight after the nuptials at their palatial estate is intended to end in her death. It seems that’s just one of the many bizarre rituals performed by the Le Domas family, a board game dynasty (in 2019? Yep, it’s a comedy).
A kind of witches’ brew of Clue and Happy Death Day with a touch of Die Hard thrown in, Ready or Not is completely absurd and almost entirely poker-faced, which works to keep the premise grounded. Playing it straight also gives some of its highly respectable cast members moderately interesting characters to flesh out. It’s nice, for example, to see former Asheville resident Andie MacDowell in a world-weary, less-than-sympathetic role. MacDowell keeps her eyebrows working as Becky, Grace’s would-be mother-in-law and wife of the current family patriarch, Tony, played by the always welcome Henry Czerny (most recently seen in HBO’s Sharp Objects).
Australian actress Samara Weaving (niece of Hugo Weaving) is fun to watch as Grace, gradually transformed from blushing bride to wary fugitive to angry avenger. Mark O'Brien plays Alex, the groom who got his beloved into this mess, a sort of impossible role that O’Brien does his best to make credible. Adam Brody is well cast as Daniel, the groom’s jaded older brother, who may or may not be onboard with hunting down Grace during the murderous Hide and Seek.
In more broadly comic roles are Nicky Guadagni as the demented Aunt Helene, who gets laughs just for staring out from beneath her shock-coif, and Kristian Bruun, who plays Alex’s snobby brother-in-law, stalking Grace with a crossbow he can’t quite figure out how to use.
Ready or Not goes pretty much where you might expect, with some gross-out deaths and gore and lots of real suffering for Grace. It loses steam for a brief period when the action leaves the cavernous mansion, but it saves its less predictable twists for its last act, which offers a grand finale worthy of the preposterousness of its premise.
The directors, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, have just one previous feature under their shared belt, a straight-up newlywed horror flick called Devil’s Due. But they juggle well enough the many balls they have to keep in the air here, likely drawing on their previous experience as an actor (Bettinelli-Olpin) and a cinematographer (Gillett).
If Rosemary’s Baby blended with scoops of Murder By Death and The Most Dangerous Game seems like a tasty smoothie to you, Ready or Not will likely keep you amused for its just over 90 minutes. And it’s a sobering reminder not to marry into money unless you’re really sure where the money comes from.
Grade: B-minus. Rated R. Playing at the AMC River Hills, Carolina Cinemark and Regal Biltmore Grande.
(Photo: Fox Searchlight)