Grace (Samara Weaving) is a young woman who was raised in a variety of foster homes. She has been seeking a permanent family all her life, so when she hooks up with Alex (Mark O’Brien) a member of the rich and powerful Le Domas clan, her life is set to change substantially. The family has, for generations, made their money from the manufacture and sale of board games, so they have a great regard for competition and the rules that constitute gameplay.
In the lead up to their wedding, Alex warns Grace that she can leave before the big day if she chooses. Grace is committed to her fiancé and seeing it through. The ceremony takes place at the gloomily, gothic Le Domas mansion and almost immediately afterwards, things take an unusual turn.
Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell) the Le Domas patriarch and matriarch, gather the extended tribe and launch into a time-honoured post-wedding ritual, in the form of a game of chance. It is supposed to assist the new bride or groom in bonding with the family. Unfortunately, for Grace, when her turn arrives, she unwittingly chooses the worst and most lethal option. She must play her chosen game according to the Le Domas house-rules or there is no chance Grace will make it to her honeymoon alive.
READY OR NOT is the rather generic title for this solid horror/comedy. The idea of a bride becoming the victim of her new family is not original, however the story choices keep events moving along nicely. When we are introduced to the Le Domas mansion, we are warned from the get-go by the creepy, ageing décor and the negative interactions of the family members that the expectations of this world are not what Grace is used to. The rich are different from normal people is what the family says explicitly in their conversation and their actions.
Grace is a bright character who has great chemistry with Alex. He was the youngest of the siblings, but has always been favoured as the Le Domas of his generation who would continue the family’s traditions and maintain their influence. Part of the controversy of Alex marrying Grace is that the family believes she is the reason he has drifted away from them. Their anger towards her is palpable. Once the story gets moving, we are enlisted in Grace’s journey. She is out-numbered, disoriented and can barely believe the situation she finds herself in.
The horror/comedy on offer is in the mode of American independent action and horror of this decade. Films from, or influenced by, the Blumhouse stable feed into this style of entertainment. READY OR NOT doesn’t have the teen horror specificity and parody of THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) or HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017). Nor does it have the overt social commentary of the PURGE franchise (2013-) or ASSASSINATION NATION (2018). It does however share something of the attitudes towards class and unchecked wealth found in Jordan Peele’s GET OUT (2018) without the overarching critique of race relations in America.
Like these other movies, READY OR NOT takes the gore and splatter of older exploitation cinema and puts it in a slick, contemporary package. The performances are very good, with Adam Brody and Mark O’Brien convincingly portraying conflicted siblings. Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell make very watchable, crazed in-laws. Australian actor Samara Weaving is becoming something of a weapons-wielding expert after this movie and two other recent horror-comedies MAYHEM (2017) and THE BABY SITTER (2017). Weaving does fine work with the continually under-pressure, against-the-odds, hero of the picture.
READY OR NOT is a well-paced, medium-gory, funny morality tale directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Duration is 95 minutes. Rating (7.5/10).