“With family one hopes for the best.”
Filled to the brim with irony and clichés, and at times a bit confused as to its setting, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s Ready or Not proves to be a fun, entertaining, and mind you, funny adventure that pits the childhood game of hide-and-seek in an entirely new light.
After a short intro and a thirty-year jump, we find ourselves face to face with Grace, a lovely young woman played by rising star Samara Weaving. Clad in a timely white dress, audiences are hit over the head with the fact that that our main protagonist is mere moments away from getting married. A quick interaction with her husband-to-be and his brother (Mark O’Brien and Adam Brody respectively) forces us all to question how a family obsessed with tradition can ignore the most obvious one. After a longer than necessary photoshoot and nuptials, we get to the main course of the evening: the game.
The first act, if we want to call it that, is quick and to the point. Our co-directors speed through the pleasantries, digging deep into the in-law’s personalities while providing viewers with countless foreshadowing moments that generate an unusual number of nervous laughs. When it finally comes time for Grace to pull a card out of the coveted box, her lack of understanding (and the family’s lack of forth-telling) is comical to an extent, even if it is an obvious play that gets worn out rather quickly.
Handicapped by forced dialogue and a bit of over-the-top acting, Ready or Not struggles to find its footing at the game begins. Though the seekers are quite laxed about the game, and a bit careless to the concept of death in general, we find ourselves roped back in by way of tidbits of information that are often offhandedly offered up. Never ones to overshare, the LeDomas family is heavily structured and operates on many levels of tradition. Viewers must pay attention to phrases and tidbits as the film restricts itself to a core set of characters, all of whom already know the outline of the evening.
Though there are countless moments where an escape is possible, it wouldn’t be a horror film without a slew of missed opportunities. Many of those opportunities surround Brody’s Daniel, a weak member of the family who plays along with the ritual even though he doesn’t fully agree with it. It is his character that brings a moral compass to the table, and it is he who the film often centers around when Grace is off-screen.
As it sits, Ready or Not plays the technology card well. Though the film itself occurs in present time, you can’t help but get drawn into history as the game is represented by the same means as the family’s great-grandfather would have played. Gone are the security camera, cell phones, and everything else that screams modern. Instead, we get a barn, boiling water, and a crossbow that no one appears to know how to use.
As the film enters its final act and a series of incidents keep the finale from occurring sooner, the story itself begins to wain. Thankfully there is a sense of humor about the entire process, which nullifies the violence to some degree and gives the film a cheesy, cult feel. It is this tone that allows you to keep things in perspective.
When the curtain falls, you can’t help but laugh. Ready or Not, which boasts a surprisingly impressive cast, is tense and, at times, anxiety-filled as you await what lies around the corner. It isn’t a revolutionary entry into the horror genre, but the film is true to form regarding guilty fun. You likely won’t lose sleep because of it, but it could make you a bit more appreciative of your in-laws.