Cinematic Releases: Ready or Not (2019) - Reviewed

The wealthy have a notorious reputation for benefitting at the expense of the lower class. Films like The Purge and The Hunger Games depict extreme examples of this, showing aristocrats being entertained and capitalizing off of the suffering of the less fortunate. Ready or Not joins their ilk as a brutally satirical look at the well-to-do, and pulls no punches in the process.  This ultraviolent, hyperkinetic film goes for the jugular, and while it might not be perfect, it’s a damn good time.

Grace (Samara Weaving), a well-intentioned woman raised in foster homes, is marrying into a wealthy family that is far more eccentric than she realized.  Having gained their fortune by succeeding in the gaming industry, the Le Domas family insists that she play a game on her wedding night as tradition.  Little does she know the seemingly innocent game of hide and seek chosen at random is actually a manhunt with her primed to be the victim.  Convinced that if she is not killed by dawn, the rest of them will die by the displeased spirit of their ancestor, the satanic, superstitious family arms themselves with a smorgasbord of weapons and tries to find her desperately hiding in their mansion so they can offer the blood-spattered bride up in a ritualistic sacrifice.

The premise is basic and wastes little time hurling the viewer into this wicked cat and mouse game head first.  Loaded with the perfect amount of exposition and suspense to set the stage, the pacing keeps the audience’s attention from beginning to end.  Nearly slapstick-level dark humor thickly coats the plot, driving home the satirical elements of the story.  The film’s warm color treatment and shadowy cinematography establish a rich sense of atmosphere that feels both opulent and ominous, further enhancing the menacing mood of the high-class antagonists. 

Would you like to play a game?

The cast is a motley crew, ranging from an intense, deranged aunt that is overzealous about the game, to the groom’s wildcard, alcoholic brother that teeters in his loyalty to the cause.  While the variety of foes is a welcome addition to the simple storyline, there is a sense that some of them could have been fleshed out better in their writing.  Alex (Mark O’Brien), the groom unwilling to play along that attempts to save his wife from the deadly hunt, is written sloppily the further his character develops.  Leading lady Samara Weaving does a fine job as Grace, screaming in blood-curdling terror with the best of them, but midway through, that becomes all we see of her with very little respite, which begins to feel monotonous.  The characters’ dialogue also tends to think it is more clever and funny than it is, dropping f-bombs so superfluously for the sake of humor that it feels out of place for the story it is trying to tell.

Certain technical aspects of the film are occasionally distracting.  Several editing sequences are sloppy and confusing, while the handheld camerawork during chase scenes feels excessive at times.  Nevertheless, there are plenty of stunning shots that feel competent enough to overlook its minor issues.  The film’s ballsy and somewhat unpredictable conclusion is deeply satisfying, and the bold choices made overall tend to make one forgiving of its flaws as well.

Ready or Not is an entertaining, action-packed gorefest that will be a treat for fans of horror and suspense with a sense of humor.  It puts every in-law joke ever made to shame with its nightmarish portrayal of the Le Domas family, and doesn’t play nice with the privileged 1%.  If a nasty, darkly funny thriller sounds like a good time, then check it out.

-Andrea Riley