Ready or not (2019)

Horror movies will always make room for rich people behaving badly. Frankly, we could use a sharp one of these right now, another American Psycho or You’re Next. Apparently that’s not in the cards: Instead, we get the splattery, not-so-clever Ready or Not, in which the snobby heirs to the Le Domas gaming fortune reveal themselves, fairly early on, to be murderers and then closet Satanists.

Although the concept is unapologetically simplistic, the narrative offers its share of surprises. There are times when the story progresses as expected but, on other occasions, it defies predictability. And, more often than not, those twists are associated with big laughs. The movie isn’t afraid to make fun of itself, its premise, or its characters. There’s an ongoing question about whether there’s something supernatural at work or whether the Le Domas clan is comprised of a bunch of materialistic, gullible sociopaths.

The premise sounds quite sinister, and it is. The patriarch of the family, through generations, has made a pact to play a game chosen by a long-deceased colleague, stating that any new additions to the family must play in return for wealth. From benign games like Old Maid and Checkers to the deadly card drawn of Hide and Seek, the family’s very life depends upon playing the game to its bitter end: Hide and Seek requires the target to be killed before dawn or the family will all die. Refuse to play and death knocks on your door.

Writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy masterfully set up the story, allowing us to get to know this young couple, Alex and Grace. She’s beautiful and he’s rich and they’re madly in love. Alex’s dismissal of his blue blood roots is endearing and Grace’s sad background of being raised by foster parents is equally engaging. They’re a match made in heaven, but can they endure the hell to come?

Although Blumhouse wasn’t involved in the production, the filmmakers have taken a leaf from the successful horror studio’s low-budget, no-frills approach. The directing team, although recognized in horror circles primarily for their shorts and contributions to anthology films, are unknowns when it comes to wide releases. Ready or Not features no big names in the cast – the most familiar are Andie MacDowell and Henry Czernay. Lead actress Samara Weaving bears an uncanny resemblance to Margot Robbie, right down to the look of steely determination she wears when she straps a bandolier around her neck and cocks a shotgun. (It may not play out as expected but it’s a great image.)

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