[Review] ‘Ready or Not’ is a diabolically fun horror film sprinkled with dark humor

Ever played a modified version of a classic game or sport? Beer Pong? Soccer-Baseball? How about a deadly version of “Hide and Seek”? Well, find your best hiding spot and don’t you dare make a sound before sunrise because “Ready or Not” made a special advanced screening at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival 1 month before its official release in North America and it was a blast.

Grace (Samara Weaving; “Mayhem”, Netflix’s “The Babysitter”) just got married to Alex (Mark O’Brien; “Arrival”, “Halt and Catch Fire”) in a very beautiful and expensive wedding. As an old tradition, Alex’s eccentric family welcome a new member to their family by playing a game at midnight on the very day of a marriage within the family. Having built their fortune on a past ancestor’s board game company, they provide a box to the newest addition to the “family roster” who pulls out a card which will dictate which game will be played. Unfortunately for Grace, she drew the “Hide and Seek” card. She must then hide somewhere in the enormous family estate and do so until dawn. Unbeknownst to her, the rest of her family have loaded up on weapons and must hunt her down in the most gruesome way before the sun comes up. If they fail to do so, the entire family will perish, or so they believe, according to an old family “curse”. Ready or not; here they come!

“Ready or Not” is a diabolically fun horror film sprinkled with dark humor. The plot is interesting and enjoyable, with the twist of the sinister card game making sense since the family’s dynasty was built on board games. It isn’t necessarily a scary film; rather a stressful one with a decent amount of surprises and violence. The “family curse” is also interesting enough to keep you guessing throughout the whole storyline if Alex’s relatives are delusional or not. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett do a great job at making us enjoy, or enjoy to hate, certain characters of the family, whether they are reluctant or not to participate in the hide and seek hunt. With some exciting twists and turns throughout the plot, you’re on the edge of your seat for most of the motion picture.

Samara Weaving is simply phenomenal, as she usually is. Sarcastic roles of dark humor within violent and gory films seem to be a perfect fit for her, as she was brilliant in 2017’s extraordinary “Mayhem” as well as “The Babysitter” from the same year. She has a certain way of hypnotizing us with her beauty and charisma, whether she performs as the hero or the villain. She does not derail from this path of success in “Ready or Not” as we get attached to her very quickly, especially seeming like the only normal person within this peculiar family. Adam Brody (“The O.C.” and “Jennifer’s Body”) is decent in his role of the alcoholic brother-in-law, although he doesn’t stand out too much. Granted, his character is very low-profile and weary of this family tradition, but he isn’t the most memorable member of the cast. The spotlight shines brightest above the patriarch of the family (Henry Czerny; “Mission: Impossible”, “Clear and Present Danger”) and his sister (Nicky Guadagni; “Cube”). The father is the head of the operation, directing things vividly and intensely while the aunt’s morbid sarcasm towards her own family members is hilarious enough to make you laugh out loud. Top it off with the great Andie MacDowell (“Groundhog Day”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) in the role of Grace’s mother-in-law and you’ve got a very entertaining cast.

The pacing of the suspense and violence does get a little sluggish as we approach the finale of the film. Events seem to drag on and go back and forth concerning the outcome of our protagonist, as most “cat-and-mouse” films do. Some characters among the family are also typical in their way of being neurotic, although a lot of us probably would be if we had to participate in this type of family custom. Some of their fates are also quite foreseeable, although nonetheless entertaining. Still, despite some aspect of predictability, the movie does contain its fair share of surprises.

“Ready or Not” hits theatres across North America today, and it is a comically dark ride into a classical children’s game that quickly turns into a sinister adults’ lethal pursuit. It is rewarded with a score of 8/10.

Review written by Simon Rother

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