Monday, September 9, 2019

The Newlywed Game

Sometimes, you reach a point that you look at yourself with pride in recognizing how well you're living your life. Then you realize you missed the chance to spend your wedding night playing a Clue-meets-The Most Dangerous Game version of hide-and-seek and you wonder if your marriage is even valid.

Quick Plot: A gloriously chaotic prologue hints at a very deadly game of hide and seek, with young Daniel hiding his little brother Alex before all out Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978-ing the hider, a tuxedoed groom about to meet a grisly fate.

Cut to 30 years later, when little Alex Le Domas is all grown up and getting hitched to Grace. Where Alex comes from an esteemed family who built their immense wealth on the gaming industry, Grace grew up in foster homes, never knowing what it meant to belong. Her wedding day is edgy but successful, as expensively dressed in-law after expensively dressed in-law welcomes her to her new clan.

Of course, like any marriage ritual, there are important aspects of tradition that must be honored. In the case of the Le Domas estate, no new entry into the family is accepted until he or she plays a game at the stroke of midnight. It could be an innocent round of checkers or old maid, but if the newlywed draws the “hide or seek” card, the evening gets a tad more complicated…as in, the entire family must catch the hider and sacrifice him or her to their ancestor before the sun rises.

Hey, I planned a wedding: sh*t gets intense.

Grace wastes no time accepting just how dire her situation is, and while Alex is doing his best to help save his new wife, an entire armed extended family with their own lives on the line is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Thankfully, they’re stuck using antiquated weaponry and in some cases, limited by a long day’s worth of cocaine and whiskey. Still, Grace has her work cut out for her.

For all the years of horror fans grumbling about remakes and unwanted sequels, what a fine age to be living in when we get a fairly steady flow of theatrically released genre films built on original premises. Based on a screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy and directed by Southbound (and to less exciting extent, The Devil’s Due)’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Ready Or Not has a fresh energy met well by its quick pacing.

The cast certainly helps. With The Babysitter, Mayhem, and the mixed (but well-acted) Picnic At Hanging Rock miniseries to her name, Samara Weaving has quickly built a wonderfully genre-heavy resume, and with Ready Or Not, she deserves the most bloodily bedazzled crown fit for an official scream queen. We don't know much about Grace's past (or even present, marital status aside), but it's impossible not to be on her side. This is the refreshingly smart and gloriously sarcastic leading lady we deserve.

Likewise, Ready Or Not is stacked with some wonderful supporting turns. Cube's Nicky Guadagni's Aunt Helene is a glorious creation, while Melanie Scrofano's overly competitive Emilie (NOT A CHARACTER I IDENTIFY WITH AT ALL) brings a wonderfully manic energy to the proceedings. On the slightly more serious end, Adam Brody's Daniel gets a surprising arc, while Andie MacDowell's manages to create a full character history with just a few quick conversations as Grace's sympathetic-to-a-point mother-in-law. It's a genuine delight to watch this family unravel.

Ready Or Not will probably make you laugh more than jump, but it's still an incredibly satisfying genre film. For the most part, Bettinelli-Olpuin and Gillett treat the material with a smart weight. Real lives--and a family dynasty--are at stake, making most of the hunt feel heavy even when its rich, often airheaded villains end up bumbling fools. It's quite a smart tone, especially for a wide theatrical release.

High Points
Is there a contract with the devil somewhere in your antique weapons closet that keeps Samara Weaving acting in horror movies for eternity? Also, do you have a pen?

Low Points
Look, I’m not saying I didn’t laugh when the Robert Palmer-looking maids met their unlucky fates, but there is a certain level of cruelty that might have deserved a little more of a commentary

Lessons Learned
In case you’ve never seen a horror film set in a Victorian mansion, allow me to confirm that dumbwaiters are never safe spaces

Always pack a comfortable, quiet pair of sneakers for whatever may come up on your honeymoon

Never trust a wealthy child

I had a darn good time with Ready Or Not, and would encourage any horror fan who wants to support creative, quality genre fare to buy a ticket. 


  1. I really wanted to love this movie but I kinda couldn't. Actually I was pretty disappointed by it.
    *possible spoilers ahead*
    The marketing/poster and the trailer made this look like a different movie. I expected her to fight back and take down the family one by one like in "You're Next" but she didn't.
    Pretty much the entire family was still standing in the final minutes before the (to me) pretty obvious twist came.
    Weaving was lovely as always and the rest of the cast did a wonderful job (except for Andie MacDowell...her acting felt off to me) but in the end the movie has left me cold. Too bad.

    1. Very fair. I actually discussed it on The Feminine Critique (my podcast) and my cohostess Christine felt VERY similar. She saw it as mean and too much of men hunting down one woman. I can see her and your points, and I wonder if I'd feel differently on second watch, but in that initial theater visit, it just felt so fun and fresh.

    2. It's perfectly fine if you like it :-)
      'Mean' is a fitting word actually. Sure, I chuckled when the second maid was accidentally killed but it was actually unnecessarily cruel if you stop to think about it.
      Grace herself is put through the wringer too. Not only does she get shot, she also gets cut and bruised so much that it comes off as pretty mean-spirited. Especially so since she's never given a chance for personal revenge. She only offs MacDowell's character who actually was nice to her before the game...again, mean.
      Finally, her husband's character turn came out of the blue. I guess we are supposed to believe he thinks she killed his brother but it still doesn't feel right.