With their fleet, funny, and gleefully bloodthirsty horror-comedy "Ready or Not," directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett deliver a satisfying skewering of the one-percenters with a deadly game of hide-and-seek.
Samara Weaving stars as Grace, who as the movie opens is about to wed the love of her life, Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien), heir to the Le Domas board game empire. Their wedding is an elegant affair, held at his family's extravagant estate. Everything goes swimmingly for the most part, but after the ceremony, instead of spending their wedding night alone, the newlyweds are summoned downstairs. There Grace is introduced the Le Domases' strange welcome-to-the-family tradition, which proclaims that new members must be initiated by joining the family in playing a game.
Which game is determined by random card drawing -- one spouse was apparently forced to play Backgammon on their wedding night, another Old Maid -- but Grace has the distinct misfortune of drawing the ultra-rare "Hide and Seek" card. We've learned that the Le Domas family plays for keeps, and soon the entire clan is choosing weapons and stalking through the mansion with murder on their mind.
Grace must elude her seekers -- including Alex's boozy brother Daniel (Adam Brody), his parents Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell), and bloodthirsty Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) -- until dawn if she hopes to stay alive.
It's hinted that this tradition may just be an excuse for the family to indulge their cruelest impulses, but screenwriters Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy gradually reveal the mythology of the Le Domas family, and why exactly hide and seek means so much to them. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett have a sure hand wrangling the film's tone, amping up the gore while keeping things light.
They have fun critiquing the money-hungry and status-obsessed with brutal aim. While the film never takes itself too seriously, it also functions as an always-timely reminder that when the rich and powerful convince the rest of us to play their crazy games, we're typically the ones who end up losing.
The one misstep is in the film's depiction of the help, treating the occasional deaths of servants with a glibness that's meant to be reflective of the family's general indifference to their suffering. In practice, however, it feels like an indifference the film itself shares.
But Weaving is a star, making Grace an instantly appealing lead. And the film boasts standout work from the entire ensemble, with special credit to Nicky Guadagni as the psychotic, axe-wielding Aunt Helene. And who doesn't want to see Andie McDowell run around shooting arrows at people?
With the story contained mostly to the single setting of a spooky old house, the gorgeous production design -- all candlelight and mahogany -- adds an extra stylish flair to the story. And I award bonus points for the soundtrack's delightfully spooky composition "The Hide and Seek Song," which is ready-made for your Halloween playlists this year.
"Ready or Not" is a hell of a lot of fun. Between this and "Crawl," it seems up to nifty little genre movies to carry the banner for original ideas at the multiplex. This one helps close out a dreary summer movie season with a burst of bloody delight.