Weddings can often be stressful events, but none so much as this! Ready or Not takes a game as innocent and childlike as hide and seek, and gives it a dark, twisted turn. In a strange blend of survival horror and borderline slapstick comedy, some of it works, while some of it doesn’t. Let’s take a closer look at the deadliest game of hide and seek ever played!
A Family Affair
The film opens with Grace (Samara Weaving) nervous but excited to be married to the love of her life Alex (Mark O’Brien). Growing up in foster homes, the idea of becoming part of a family is incredibly appealing to her, even among a family as odd as his. Their immense wealth came from producing playing cards and board games. Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody) is the most “normal” out of them all, even admitting how strange they are and trying to warn Grace about what she’s getting herself into.
After exchanging their vows, it’s understood by Grace that she must play a game with the family as a sort of initiation. Tensions are high among Alex and Daniel, about which game will be chosen. Grace draws a card, supposedly chosen by the spirit of their wealthy family’s benefactor from 100 years earlier, and as she draws hide and seek, the room falls eerily silent. Alex’s father tells her that all she needs to do is hide and if she wants to win, she must stay hidden until dawn.
Grace playfully finds a hiding spot, slightly weirded out by this tradition, but nevertheless, finding it amusing. All the while, Alex’s parents, siblings, and their spouses gather antique weapons and prepare to hunt her down. They believe that because hide and seek was the chosen game, she must die before dawn, otherwise they will all be killed. What ensues is an insane game of cat and mouse, that holds nothing back in terms of violence, gore, and off the walls insanity!
Not Pure Evil
Part of what makes this setup so compelling is that family isn’t hunting Grace out of bloodlust, or some psychotic/sadistic desire to commit murder. Rather they see it as something that they must do for their own self-preservation. Certainly some of them seem to take more pleasure out of it, like Alex’s creepy Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), but in her defense, she was forced to play this same game with her new husband 30 years earlier, and she’s never been the same since.
But for Daniel and his mother Becky (Andie McDowell), they clearly don’t want to do this. Because this game has only been played once in their lifetime, it’s not a normal thing for them and they sincerely like Grace and wish she could join the family. Their reluctance to go along with it makes this a much more interesting film than it would have been. It’s hardly the first story to deal with people hunting other people, but the hunters here feel just as desperate and scared of death as the hunted.
As Grace proves to be a worthy foe, we see the family break down and clash with one another, some even doubting that anything will actually happen at dawn if she’s still alive. The film brilliantly flirts with the line between reality and supernatural, leaving the characters, as well as the audience unsure until the very end.
Horror Comedy or Comedy Horror?
While Ready or Not goes full Saw in terms of gore, its overall tone is much more lighthearted and comedic. Everything from Alex’s idiotic sister, who’s hyped up on cocaine and keeps accidentally killing the servants, to intense scenes being relieved of all suspense due to a punchline. The film knows that its premise is slightly absurd and never attempts to take it seriously. Instead, it just has fun with it and hopes the audience will too.
The only time that it ever becomes an issue is just how repetitive the third act gets. We keep seeing Grace almost escape, just to get capture and nearly killed, just to somehow escape again and the cycle continues at least 4 or 5 times. In addition, like most comedies, some of the jokes hit hard with laughs, and some of them land awkwardly and without humor. But if these are the only two negative things that we can say, it’s still a pretty fun and enjoyable film!
2019, R, Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 95 minutes