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"READY OR NOT"
(2019) (Samara Weaving, Mark O'Brien) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror/Black Comedy: Told she must play a random game to follow the tradition of marrying into a wealthy family, a young bride must contend with them wanting to kill her when she finds herself in a deadly version of Hide and Seek.
PLOT:
After eighteen months of dating, Grace (SAMARA WEAVING) is marrying Alex Le Domas (MARK O'BRIEN), a young man who's been estranged from his family that built its immense fortune via board games. But as tradition would have it, the wedding must take place at the family estate where most of the members -- who are only now meeting Grace -- talk about her behind her back and question whether she's just a gold-digger. There's the head of the family, Tony (HENRY CZERNY), and his wife, Becky (ANDIE MacDOWELL), the latter of whom is one of the few who seems to like the new bride.

Also present are Alex's brother, Daniel (ADAM BRODY), who acts like he doesn't want to be there, and his wife, Charity (ELYSE LEVESQUE). Drugged up sibling Emilie (MELANIE SCROFANO) is there with her husband, Fitch (KRISTIAN BRUUN), while Aunt Helene (NICKY GUADAGNI) glares at Grace like she wants to kill her.

She gets her chance at just that when Grace is informed that family tradition dictates that she must play a randomly chosen game at midnight, something that seems benign at first. But when she ends up getting Hide and Seek, little does she know that their hunt for her will be literal -- as in they intend to find and maim her so that they can sacrifice her before dawn the next morning. She's shocked when she realizes what's occurring and that Alex knowingly invited her there, but he says he didn't know that's the game she'd select and that if he didn't marry her there, he'd be killed.

From that point on, he does what he can to try to get her out of the manor that's now been locked down by butler Stevens (JOHN RALSTON), all while the various family members come after her with murderous intent, forcing her to fight back.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
In the 1983 Cold War thriller film "War Games," Matthew Broderick's teenage character is asked by the WOPR supercomputer -- thinking he's its creator -- "Shall we play a game?" David replies he'd love to, and suggests, "How about global thermonuclear war?" The computer asks if he'd prefer a good game of chess. The teen, unaware of what he's about to unleash, tells the computer later and that he wants to play the other game.

In the horror-black comedy flick "Ready or Not," the somewhat older protagonist doesn't get the choice of what sort of game she's going to play as part of her entry into her new groom's family. Instead, it's the luck of the draw, and her randomly selected card initially seems as benign as the "War Games" teen playing an online game.

Unbeknownst to her, however, this particular game of Hide and Seek is just as potentially deadly (albeit on a greatly reduced scale) as it goes above and beyond the simple and well-known rules. Yes, she must hide, and others must seek. But while she's off folding herself into the dumbwaiter thinking this is odd but silly (especially on her wedding night), the family members are arming themselves with a variety of weapons they intend to use on her. And let the games begin...

Beyond being surprised that this commonly used phrase has never been utilized for a major Hollywood studio release, I'm amazed how effective, gory and, yes, funny this little flick turns out to be. Will it appeal to a broad demographic of moviegoers? Not hardly. But those looking for their horror liberally dosed with black comedy might just enjoy what co-writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy and co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have concocted and delivered.

The tone is set right from the get-go as various members of the Le Domas family cast less than favorable eyes on the young woman who's about to marry into their clan, Grace (Samara Weaving). That's sort of understandable in that they've never met her before -- their son, Alex (Mark O'Brien), has been estranged from the family for a while -- and there are concerns about whether she's a gold-digger after some of the family fortune that's large enough to afford buying four sports teams among other trappings.

That money initially came from board games and thus the family has a tradition of playing a randomly selected game at midnight on the day of anyone's wedding. Most of the time that ends up being benign, like playing a game of checkers. Unfortunately for Grace, she ends up with the Hide and Seek card, and the look on Alex's face tells us everything we need to know.

As does footage of the various family members selecting their weapon of choice to "seek" out the young woman who's already left the room. For patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny) that's an old rifle, while his wife, Becky (Andie MacDowell) chooses a bow and arrow. Alex's brother Daniel (Adam Brody) also has a rifle, but prefers the drink in his hand, while his wife, Charity (Elyse Levesque) wields a spear gun.

A battle-ax seems to fit glowering Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) perfectly, while drug-fueled Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) is given a handgun and has a hard time not accidentally killing others, and her husband, Fitch (Kristian Bruun), has to watch an online video to figure out how to use his crossbow.

That's about all you really need to know as the armed family members have until sunrise to find Grace for a ritualistic sacrifice, and she has the same amount of time to avoid them. That is, until she starts fighting back and, coupled with the accidental deaths, is when the gruesome fun begins.

Yes, it's outrageous, but it's so over-the-top and the villains are mostly so cartoonish that you can't help but laugh while wincing at each demise in this spin on the old "Most Dangerous Game" story. If you're game for such comedic horror mayhem, you might be asking "Shall we play a game...of 'Ready or Not?'" The film rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed August 19, 2019 / Posted August 21, 2019


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