In a summer filled with a varied and diverse lineup of horror films, Fox Searchlight Pictures managed to sneak in one more unique take before the end of the summer season. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett bring to life this spin on Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.
Ready or Not begins with Grace (Samara Weaving) preparing for her wedding day with her fiancé, Alex (Mark O’Brien), an heir to the wealthy Le Domas family gaming empire. As excited as Grace is for the wedding, Alex has some trepidation about Grace joining the family and attempts to give her an out, where they can both just leave. However, the two go through with the wedding and Grace meets the rest of the eccentric Le Domas family.
Later that night, Alex tells Grace about their family tradition — playing a random game whenever someone new joins the family. After the family gathers in the game room, family patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny) gives an oration of the family’s history and ascension to wealth and the background of their gaming tradition as the family passes around a box, meant to determine the game of the night.
Grace draws a card from the box, which is revealed to be a game of hide and seek. The family remains behind in the games room for the countdown while Grace heads to the upper floor of the mansion to hide. As the game begins, Grace is still nonchalantly wandering the halls, until she’s whisked into a bedroom by her fiancé and told to hide.
When one of the family’s maids chances upon the room they’re in, looking for one of Alex’s nephews, she is killed by Alex’s sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), who mistakes her for Grace. It’s here that the reality of the game dawns on Grace as Alex informs her of his family’s twisted tradition.
Much like Connell’s short story, the movie follows a hunt of sorts, with the wealthy Le Domas family serving as the film’s hunters. However, beyond the game of hunting down a person for sport, the film goes in its own direction with its base premise. It’s apparent early on in Ready or Not that the movie is something quite unique unto itself.
Though seemingly normal on the surface, there is a persistent air of something sinister beneath the surface as each member of the Le Domas family is introduced with an aura of peculiarity. From the death stares of Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), to Charity’s (Elyse Levesque) condescension, to the air headedness of Emilie and her husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun), each presents a distinct and entertaining personality for the eclectic Le Domas family. Top to bottom, the casting for each family member is pitch perfect, with each delivering a great performance befitting the tone that the directors set for the film.
However, none of the efforts by the directors would have succeeded if not for the terrific lead performance by Samara Weaving. She is fantastic in the role of Grace, as she’s pushed to the edge once the game begins. Weaving perfectly blends the terror of being hunted for sport, with the occasional bit of humor from her exasperated reactions to the situations she finds herself in throughout the movie.
Given the game that Grace is forced to play, she could have easily been reduced to being a damsel in distress, but time and again throughout the film we see the fighter in her. This makes her a compelling lead with her successes and failures, as at no point does she ever give up or mope in the film. She struggles to the very end, which ultimately leaves audiences with a satisfying feeling.
Where this film falls short is in its writing. As terrific as the performances are from the entire cast, they can only do so much with the material given to them. Much of the film’s humor is thanks to the delivery rather than the writing, with many of the misses being a result of the script falling flat. In that sense, Ready or Not really could have used a punch up to its script in order to take full advantage of the talented cast at the film’s disposal.
Additional scenes involving the various cast members would have been welcome, particularly scenes including the various family members interacting with one another. With their varying personalities, each could have provided interesting dynamics that could have made this film even more memorable.
That said, the film does ultimately succeed on the whole, especially as the film boils to its insane finale. In retrospect, the bonkers ending does make you wish that the film could have kept that same level of insanity throughout the film, as the various kills leading up to the finale feel tame (if still entertaining) by comparison. Overall, Ready or Not is a nice surprise for the end of the summer season and should be a fun and thrilling treat for those looking for a mostly unique experience. ~Paolo Maquiraya
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