I am not a man of tradition. I don’t celebrate holidays; I don’t dress up for Thanksgiving dinner and most certainly don’t put up a Christmas tree. One reason for this is simple: I like to be different and break away from what everyone else is doing. But, I do like to play games. Ready or Not has an interesting premise that sees a young bride engage in a game of Hide and Seek with her new in-laws. The result is a promising idea that sinks into a routine slasher film that adds up to nothing unique and, quite frankly, a disappointing time.
Young Grace (Samara Weaving) is excited to take the fateful steps down the aisle to marry the man she fell in love with Daniel (Adam Brody). Everyone is waiting outside Daniel’s family estate eager to see this young couple take their vows. What’s interesting is that we never see any of Grace’s family. Not a word or even an introduction. I think their invitation in the mail was lost or perhaps she has no family, but the movie never mentions anything.
After the wedding, the new in-laws are waiting for Grace and Daniel to arrive downstairs to participate in a family tradition. During a monologue by the father of the family, Tony (Henry Czerny), it’s explained that the family created card games which eventually evolved into board games, which brought forth their wealth. Their estate is loaded with many rooms, hidden corridors and many places to hide but we never really get a sense of how big the estate really is. The camera is quite selective at showing us the full scale of this estate property. When a new member is introduced to the family, the newcomer must play a game. It could be anything but the game is chosen by a box that’s been handed down from the family for generations. Flip a coin and the game will be chosen for you, so to speak.
Well, if you’ve seen the trailers, TV spots and so forth then you know what game gets picked. Grace has to survive a game of Hide and Seek from midnight to dawn. Either she gets killed or something bad will happen to the family, which sounds like a superstitious urban legend. All of this would be fine but the movie makes a fatal error. Daniel finds Grace, heartbroken at what game has been drawn, and informs his wife of what’s about to happen. When a character informs another about what’s happening or is going to happen in the story, that kills the suspense for the audience. After Daniel tells his wife, I remained sitting in the theater bored and quickly losing interest. Why not let her figure it out so that we, the audience, can be surprised and wonder what’s going on?
What follows is a series of sequences where the family sneaks around their house armed with rifles, pistols, crossbows and even a axe hell-bent on hunting the bride. Think of The Most Dangerous Game mixed with And Then There Were None. Unfortunately the movie forgets about an intriguing idea and instead settles for a cheap slasher that ends the same way as every other slasher movie. Another problem with this concept are the players or family members, all of whom are given very little identity or purpose. So even when they die we feel nothing because they weren’t memorable or unique in the first place.
Ready or Not does have some surprise moments, but only two scenes actually stood out for me. Even as a brisk ninety-five minute feature, it still felt slow and tedious. Most of the film is shot in the dark, a feeling matched by all the lights being turned off in the groom’s family house, but this can be frustrating for the audience to understand what’s happening. All the while I was thinking, if this family wants to kill the bride to ensure their survival, or so they say, why turn off the lights? If you want her dead so bad, why not keep them on so it’s easier to find her? I had a ton of questions, which engaged me more in thought than actually watching the movie.
Verdict 2.5 out of 5
Ready or Not has a workable idea, but sadly throws away ideas and uniqueness in favor of bloody violence and a sadistic sense of humor. While some kills are noteworthy, there’s nothing much that you’ll remember after leaving the theater. Poor Samara Weaver gives a good performance, but her character is largely underdeveloped and all she’s left to do is scream, be scared and kill her in-laws. This did remind me of You’re Next and Escape Room, but it’s nowhere as clever or fun as those movies. Ready or Not is just a blood-soaked thriller that leaves you empty-handed with the potential that could’ve been.