Ready or Not opens with a gleefully intense and shocking scene. It serves to give us a taste of the kind of twisted games that usually play out within the confines of huge gothic mansion owned by the eccentric Le Domas family, who made their fortune in the board game business. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ll know that Ready or Not is basically just Hide and Seek, but with deathly consequences. However, this short, sharp introduction leaves you in no doubt as to just how far the Le Domas family will go in order to win the game.
Cut to a more happier time as Grace (Samara Weaving, niece of Hugo Weaving) is preparing to marry into the Le Domas dynasty. Her husband to be is Alex (Mark O’Brien), estranged son who has now returned to the family home where the ceremony will be taking place. As a foster child, Grace yearns to become part of a more permanent family and is concerned that she won’t be accepted by the Le Domas clan, not helped by the cold scowl she gets from a seriously creepy looking Aunt Helene.
We rejoin Grace and Alex later that evening, now married. But Grace discovers that rather than retire to bed with her new husband, they must join the family downstairs and partake in a wedding night tradition which will see her officially becoming a Le Domas – she has to play a game. Wanting nothing more than to fit in with her new in-laws, Grace goes along with it all as patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny) explains how the tradition will play out. The game they must play is selected at random from a box that has been passed down through the generations after it was originally given to the family by mysterious benefactor, Mr. Le Bail. The wife of eldest son Daniel got Chess, the husband of daughter Emilie got Old Maid, so it really is anyone’s guess what the mystery game will be! All of the siblings and their spouse’s are in attendance for the game and watch on as Grace draws… Hide and Seek, the one game which results in death!
Not realising the seriousness of her choice, Tony explains to Grace that in order to win the game she must remain hidden until dawn, and she laughs it off. An old vinyl hide and seek record begins playing, giving Grace the time to go find a suitable hiding place, and she winds up climbing into a dumb waiter to hide. But, she soon gets bored and decides to go wandering around the huge house. It’s not long though until she discovers that the family members have equipped themselves with shotguns, axes and crossbows… and they’re not afraid to use them! Turns out, the family believe that if they don’t kill Grace by dawn, a terrible fate will befall them all.
What follows is an intense game of cat and mouse, with a good dose of gore and dark humour thrown in. One minute we’re holding our breath as Grace tries to quietly avoid a member of the family, the next we’re cutting to the other family members, who are mostly completely incompetent – bickering between themselves or watching a YouTube crash course on how to use a crossbow! Ready or Not manages to juggle the different tones effortlessly, and brilliantly, as Grace goes from terrified scream queen in a pristine white wedding dress, to blood-soaked badass wearing a pair of old converse and brandishing a shotgun. She’s the latest in a long line of great female survivors, played to perfection by Samara Weaving. If you liked 2011 movie ‘You’re Next’, then Ready or Not reminded me of that in many ways.
The gothic setting and the suitably wonderful score by Brian Tyler (usually found providing music for MCU movies) all adds to what is a wonderfully short (95 minute), but perfectly paced, completely bonkers thrill ride.