Ready or Not… Here Come The One Percenters!

Most of the guests have left. The ceremony was fitting for a family with mucho dinero. They “Spared no expense,” and all that. It’s time for newlyweds Grace and Alex to settle in for the night, for their honeymoon to begin. But before Grace can take off her stunning white gown, her husband of a few hours tells her there’s just one more thing: she needs to play a game with him and his immediate family – including that weird aunt that kept staring at her during the nuptials. The game chosen is random. It can be checkers, chess, who knows? Grace pulls a card from an ancient wooden box. It reads Hide & Seek. The rules are simple: she can hide anywhere on the grounds of the magnificent estate of the Le Domas family. She must survive until dawn. Unbeknownst to Grace, survival is meant literally as all of her in-laws will be out to maim and possibly kill her. Ready or Not, let the games begin.

Like some retro arcade hero, Grace (Samara Weaving) must get through the night with nary a costume change. She’s in that wedding dress for the duration of the film’s running time. Costume designer Avery Plewes does a lot with what, at first, amounts to a pretty traditional yet form-fitting wedding dress. As the battle of hide & seek gets more gruesome, the dress goes through several alterations. Blood-soaked and shredded was my favorite.

Although the dress is the most identifiable signifier of the just how much the mayhem amps up as dawn approaches, the production design by Andrew M. Stearn (The Handmaid’s Tale) and the score by Brian Tyler (Escape Room) complete a kind of trilogy of genre staples. The Le Domas’ mansion is a confining, darkly lit deathtrap with grim hallways, a deadly dumbwaiter, and horrific goat stables. The sharp upticks in sound design and music can sometimes be overwrought, but ]this is a mostly very well-executed picture about the pain of trying to survive in a world of privilege.

This kind of movie doesn’t scream subtle, yet there are interesting ideas afoot giving the high concept more heft than expected. Like The Last Jedi or, to a lesser degree, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, the script by Guy Busick (The Purge) & R. Christopher Murphy has an interest in the politics of whether or not one should drain the swamp, i.e., should we let the past die as Kylo Ren would? Kill it if we have to, literally. And like those stellar films, the subtext is never a hindrance. If anything, the climax of the film (which I won’t spoil) works incredibly well to strengthen this idea, with some of it being literal, and other aspects being just vague enough.

It’s not exactly new to poke fun at the rich and privileged, but the structure and setting (where all the resources like the weapons are for family members only) imply it’s about more than these particular wealthy jerks. The very foundation of the mansion and by extension, this society is designed to destroy anyone that’s not a one-percenter. A running gag about how the help is needlessly slaughtered goes a long way to make this clear.

Still, there are times when this tight 95 min comedy-thriller feels like it could have done more. We get just enough backstory for the devious members of the Le Domas’ in the opening, but the cast, which includes Adam Brody, along with veterans Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell, while game, don’t have much to do. There’s not a subpar performance in the bunch. However, beyond Weaving, there are sadly not a lot of memorable turns.

So it’s imperative that Weaving is so terrific. While she’s had small roles in films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, it’s her work in McG’s The Babysitter that set the stage for the kind of intensity she delivers here. Like that flick, where a teen finds out his sitter is in a supernatural cult, Weaving has a gift for staying in the present. It keeps Grace as a character always on edge, constantly wondering how she’ll survive the night. Grace can also be quite funny, as a sort of play-by-play announcer to what she experiences (Rich people, amirite?). She is the film’s MVP. Still, like Jessica Roth in the Happy Death Day movies, one’s enjoyment of Ready or Not depends greatly on how much one finds Weaving’s brand of charisma engaging. I was on board for the entire run time.

Although the “let’s hunt humans in an old-timey mansion” setup can’t quite match the deft pacing of Adam Wingard’s similar You’re Next, there’s a lot of fun to be had. And that ending is bloody and unforgettable.


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