Movie Review: ‘Ready or Not’, here comes one of 2019’s best horror-comedies

Movie Review: ‘Ready or Not’, here comes one of 2019’s best horror-comedies

A game of hide and seek turns unexpectedly deadly when the hider discovers the seekers are actually out to murder her in Ready or Not, a new new horror comedy that delivers some real laughs alongside genuine thrills as long as you can buy into its preposterous premise.

That premise of Ready or Not: ages ago, the patriarch of the Le Domas family made a rather impractical deal with the devil that gave the family generations of wealth in the form of a board game empire. The catch: when an outsider marries into the family, they must play a game chosen at random by drawing a card from a mysterious box.

While the game could be something as innocent as Old Maid, if the new family member happens to select Hide and Seek, well, they must then be hunted down by the rest of the family and ritually sacrificed. Or else the entire family will apparently be vanquished… or something.

This poses something of a conundrum for Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien), who has rejoined his family after some years of estrangement with fiancée Grace (Samara Weaving). He hasn’t told his new bride-to-be about the old family tradition, hoping she’ll draw Monopoly on their wedding night. And when the inevitable happens, she finds out the hard way.

If you’re asking why Alex would jeopardize the life of the woman he supposedly loves, well… Ready or Not won’t give you much of an answer outside of a throwaway one-liner about how she really wanted to get married. And why, for that matter, does this family still put so much faith in this generations-old pact with the devil? Creepy aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), I get it… maybe even parents Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell), who seem like nice enough folks but might have lived with the tradition too long.

But Fitch (Kristian Bruun) and Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), who have only recently married into the family themselves, seem a little too eager to get into the bloodshed to be believable. And so do the family’s butler (John Ralston) and their trio of young maids, who are just working a job and have never previously experienced this deadly game, butare more than happy to help this deranged family hunt down Grace.

Only Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody) seems clued in to the fact that this is all probably bullshit… and even if it isn’t, well, it’s just not worth it.

But Grace provides more of a challenge than the Le Domas family first anticipated, and Ready or Not delivers some real thrills as they hunt her down only to find the tables turned. This isn’t exactly Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, but rising star Weaving makes for an especially empathetic lead we can root for as she’s pushed to the breaking point and far beyond.

While you might have a little trouble buying in the premise, Ready or Not is well aware of its preposterous nature and injects a healthy dose of comedy amidst the bloodshed. It’s a delicate line to walk, but directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, working from a script by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, nicely balance the thrills and laughs.

One quibble: Ready or Not makes far too much use of the convenient concussion, when a character is knocked out from a bonk to the head only to come to when the script calls for it later on. This scenario repeats itself at least five or six times during the course of this movie, partially in order to keep its small pool of characters around as long as possible - - but this is one movie cliche that audiences just aren’t buying any more.

Ready or Not recalls The Purge movies in that its success is reliant on how much audiences are willing to buy into a nonsensical premise. But because this one doesn’t take itself too seriously, it gives viewers the chance to have a lot more fun. And that classic Hide and Seek song, which sounds authentically 1930s but was produced for this film, makes for a great addition to any Halloween music playlist.

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