Someone olde, someone red; someone hunted, someone dead.
On her wedding day, Grace (Samara Weaving) is having per-ceremony jitters… not over her wonderful husband-to-be Alex (Mark O’Brien) but as a former foster kid hoping to be accepted into the filthy-rich Le Domas family (Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni). On her wedding night, however, the well-off eccentrics reveal a ritual whenever someone new marries into the clan, one taking place at the stroke of midnight. Having built their fortune in sporting equipment and board games, a randomly chosen game is played with all immediate family members. Participation is mandatory, of course — under penalty of death — and everyone’s playing for keeps.
As a film by Radio Silence launched under the Fox Searchlight banner, there is already a hint at expectations and the pedigree of what viewers might be in for. The trailers appear very one-sided, with the potential to show the gruesome persecution and likely slaughter of an innocent with little expectation of comeuppance… except comeuppance being exactly they kind of thing these films run on. It isn’t a question of whether this kind of movie can balance mystery, gore, and humor — these folks seem pretty good at it — but how many twists, turns, and out-of-the-box ideas can they pull off with this concept piece?
On one hand, it’s a thinly disguised commentary on the rich: that someone can’t become wealthy without help, that one must either marry into money or inherit it, and sacrificing a bit or all of one’s humanity is often the price of maintaining it. Like any reputable crime syndicate, “the family” becomes an excuse for all abhorrent behavior, because “we’re all in this together.” At the same time, the devil is literally in the details, suggesting a far greater backstory and world-concept that hints at a franchise without sacrificing the central arc. Like Clue conjoined with Game Night in a mad scientist’s lab, it comes to life as a monster all its own.
Samara Weaving’s Grace is the glue that holds the entire show together, yet at the same time is the person we learn the least about. As the POV character for the audience, we learn what she learns when she learns it; her own survivalist arc from hunted to hunter is an organic transformation over the course of a single night by sheer force of will. Sometimes the film’s flow feels disjointed, like transitions cut in the editing room leaving gaps in the natural highs and lows; this was a huge problem for the remake of 13 Ghosts. In happy exchange, viewers are granted scene setups and payoffs that are fairly original if not unique, not to mention the gratuity of seeing the deserved get theirs.
Can one be the final girl if she was the only intended victim? If you play the game and win, do you still lose… or still have to keep playing? Not every question is answered here while still providing a satisfying conclusion. At a tight 93 minutes of mayhem, it doesn’t wear out its nihilistic welcome yet pushes it as far as it can. For the truly cynical, imagine the entirety of the worst possible marriage crammed into the span of six hours instead of dragging out for years; that can only be a good thing… right?
Ready Or Not is rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, some drug use, and whatever the hell happened to the Van Horne’s.
Three skull recommendation out of four
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