In the nifty, out-of-left-field thriller Ready or Not (★★★½), new bride Grace (Samara Weaving) loves her groom Alex (Mark O’Brien) enough to overlook the reasonable sense of dread she feels around his outwardly creepy, insanely wealthy family. But she truly has no idea to what insane lengths she’ll be forced to fight for her comfortable seat at the Le Domas clan’s abundant table.
Grace and Alex’s wedding party with the fam at the countryside Le Domas estate quickly degenerates from snarky chuckles over champagne into a gruesome game of Purge-style violence. For good measure, the night is spiked with a shot of the madcap energy of Clue or Neil Simon’s Murder By Death. As in both films, good manners and discretion won’t save the servants from a surprise impaling or two.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the team behind mostly forgotten 2014 horror Devil’s Due, bite into the bitter comedy of maimings, shotgun beheadings, and bloody mayhem with the aid of cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz’s roving camera and an especially game cast.
Andie MacDowell plays deliciously against type as Alex’s sweet but stringent mother Becky, who’s happy to welcome Grace into the family if it means having her son back in the fold. And Adam Brody adds a surly undercurrent of brotherly love as Alex’s jaded older sibling, Daniel. Henry Czerny, as the progressively more perturbed Le Domas patriarch Tony, plays this craziness just the right shade of straight, while Nicky Guadagni, made up to look like the long-lost cousin of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, supplies a hail of dagger stares and gruff commands in her hilarious turn as demented Aunt Helene.
Helene is the staunchest steward of the Le Domas family’s traditions and secrets, although the film seems to side with one character’s view that there is no secret: rich people are just different. And this particular rich family, which might or might not be cursed, takes different to the extreme. Alex simply calls them horrible people, lamenting to Grace that “You’ll do pretty much anything if your family makes you believe it’s okay.” The line sounds astutely and sadly emblematic of an era.
Alex, it turns out, is Ready or Not‘s weakest character, and not just because he’s involved in the film’s most implausible escape. Grace, on the other hand, is a powerhouse, and Weaving (niece of Matrix star Hugo) gives a wisecracking, action-packed “final girl” performance to stand with the best of them. Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett craft around their Hitchcock blonde a suspenseful mousetrap that’s also a cheeky satire about rich sociopaths who will turn to lawlessly inflicting pain on others, if it keeps their wealth intact.
Ready or Not is Rated R, and is now playing nationwide. Visit www.fandango.com.