Rare is the movie that’ll make you laugh with glee when a character takes a crossbow bolt right through their gullet, but Ready or Not—directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett—isn’t your average “horror” movie. A delightful hybrid of, say, The Purge and 1985’s Clue, it’ll leave you doubled over in laughter even as you flinch at the gratuitous blood splatter you’re convinced is splashing through the screen onto your own face.
After a dark, what-the-heck prologue that hints at the violence to come, Ready or Notopens with Grace (a fantastic Samara Weaving) getting ready on her wedding day. The guests are all assembled at the mansion of her betrothed Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), heir to the family’s billion-dollar board game empire. Looking as though they’ve all stepped straight out of an Edward Gorey illustration, the clan greets the day with varying levels of enthusiasm, from the sneering and stoic Auntie Helene (Nicky Guadagni) to Alex’s sympathetic mother Becky (Andie MacDowell).
Eventually we learn (at least somewhat) the reason for the family’s oddness; some are convinced Grace is just in it for the money. They’re so paranoid about outsiders, in fact, that they’ve devised a (mostly innocuous) initiation ceremony for folks marrying into the clan—at midnight of the wedding day, the newbie has to sit down and play a game with them. Usually it’s a simple card game like Old Maid, but every so often the Hide and Seek card is drawn, which forces the naive bride (or groom) to hide until dawn, lest she be hunted down successfully by the family and killed. As a sacrifice. To Satan.
A (un)luck would have it, that’s the card Grace draws, and it doesn’t take long for her to discover that what she thinks is just a harmless (though odd) game is something far, far more sinister. Within minutes, she’s dodging bullets, crossbows, and battle-axes in an attempt to stay alive as the entire Le Domas clan (including an ultra-drole Adam Brody) are hot on her trail.
Weaving, who stole the show in Netflix’s 2017 bloody romp The Babysitter, is more than up to the task, carrying the bulk of Ready or Not on her (bloodied) back. What could have been a largely one-note role (pretty young woman screams as she runs away from danger for ninety minutes) is instead a fierce and powerful performance that breathes tanks full of fresh air into the already inventive script.
Co-writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy must have had an absolute blast putting this thing together, crafting a subversive and eminently entertaining story that sends up not only horror movies (and satanic rituals) but the eccentricities of the super-rich. To be sure there are a few plot holes, and the script leaves more questions unanswered than it should, but with a little bit of suspended disbelief, Ready or Not hits all the right buttons. It’s a game no one in their right mind would like to play, but it sure as heck is a bloody fun thing to watch.