“I honestly can’t wait to be a part of your moderately fucked up family,” Grace (Samara Weaving) tells her soon-to-be husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) minutes before she walks down the aisle. Be careful what you wish for. In Ready or Not, “’til death do us part” is a more immediate struggle as Alex’s dynastic family has a unique way of initiating new members. Dark, funny, and thoroughly unique, the latest horror-tinged thriller from Southbound directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett could be a last-minute hit of the summer.
A century ago, the Le Domas family made a deal with a literal devil to launch a board game empire. Sometimes appearing in ghost form, the entity known as Mr. Le Bail watches over to make sure they keep up their end of the bargain: when someone marries into the family, they spend the evening playing a game of his choice. A blank playing card is placed into a mysterious wooden box. A simple turn of the crank prints the name of the game onto the card. Seems innocent enough, unless the game is hide and seek, which turns the Le Domas mansion into a hunting ground for a poor unsuspecting newlywed.
The script from Guy Busick (The Purge) and R. Christopher Murphy has a sense of humor when it comes to the family fulfilling its obligation to Le Bail and the desire to see Alex happy. The film begins with a profession of love and a profession of guilt. Alex has done everything he can to stay away from his family, but Grace is an orphan. She’s excited to be a part of a large family with a rich history. As the night unfolds, both the newlyweds are asked to question how much they trust one another, personifying the fear of marriage.
While the subject matter may seem bleak, Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett string visual comedic gags throughout the movie. From the terrifying Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), who sits like an angry crow, always watching he jovial wedding party with disdain, to a creepy record that plays jolly-but-foreboding music, the duo volleys the audience between laughing and screaming.
The deaths are vicious and ridiculous. One maid, eager to help her distraught employer find the missing bride, earns an arrow in her throat for her trouble. As the maid runs in to share what she knows, the first thought I had is, “Why would anyone, not bound to Le Bail’s contract, agree to murder an innocent woman?” Most of the staff attempts to capture the woman. No bonuses, additional health care options, or threats are made by the family if the staff doesn’t want to help. They do it because proximity to wealth is just as addictive as having the money. Gain the master’s favor, and any member of the help might be living better tomorrow than they did today.
The family plays the game because Le Bail promised they would die horrible deaths if they don’t kill the bride by sunrise. Playing on the urban legends of tragic wealth like the Kennedys or the Guinness Family, Murphy and Busik play with the schadenfreude of watching the one-percent implode. There are no big family secrets, no public cheating, or drug scandals that turn the family against one another. This isn’t a soap opera. It’s much scarier. Because the truth is, nearly everyone in the family is nice until someone comes between them and their money. They’re not even sure if they believe in the curse, but are willing to kill for it, just in case. Even the children find a way to partake in the game, eager to support the family in whatever way they can. Money is power.
Not since Clue, has a film so perfectly taken on extreme wealth in a comedic form. From not so blushing bride, to scream queen, to a kick-ass bride, not too far from Uma Thurman’s The Bride in Kill Bill, Weaving leads the ensemble cast with raw survival instincts. I left the theater cheering, “Eat the rich.” If you don’t fall into that category, it’s a total romp.