Released: 24th October
Seen: 25th October
One great trick Horror movies can pull out to create an engaging story is to take a mundane game of some kind and introduce the element of death. There have been horror movies about video games that will kill the player should they lose, films that took video poker and added murder victims and last year we even got a film that took Truth or Dare and made it deadly… granted, it didn’t make it good, but it sure did make it deadly. Well, now we have another addition to this little group in the form of Ready or Not, which takes the childhood game of hide and seek and flavours it with a little bit of The Most Dangerous Game for good measure.
We start with our soon-to-be iconic blushing bride Grace (Samara Weaving) who is getting ready for her big day. Finally, she’ll get to marry her fiancé, Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) who is part of the Le Domas gaming dominion. Of course, because they are a rich and eccentric bunch, the Le Domas family has a little tradition for everyone who joins their family. At midnight on the day of the wedding, they must play a game that’s chosen completely at random. Most years it’s something simple like chess or old maid but if you pull the hide and seek card then trouble awaits since that’s the game where you hide and they seek with crossbows and other implements of murder. Grace has to try and hide from her in-laws in a giant mansion that’s staffed by a single butler and the backup dancers from the Addicted to Love music video, so it’s not going to be a normal night in.
With such an outrageously silly idea, it’s nice to see them fully embracing the ridiculousness of it all. The film has no problems just leaning in on the absurdity, throwing out brisk one-liners between the assorted moments of carnage or making a joke out of accidental murder. It never takes itself seriously which is good because “Lethal Hide and Seek” is not a serious topic in any way. It’s meant to just be silly fun and never pushes for much more than that, though it does know how to throw in some legitimately tense moments. It’s a genuine skill to go from moments of pure comedy to pure horror, very few films can pull this balance off but Ready or Not does it wonderfully. Some moments will make you laugh till you cry, and then you’ll be cringing and screaming from the latest horrific set piece thrown in front of your eyes.
Every element of this film is so brilliantly thought out, each move that the characters make sets up some effective moments that feel inevitable and shocking at the same time. This is particularly notable in a sequence involving a pit and a ladder… I won’t spoil what happens, it’s so shocking I want you to enjoy it, but every element of it is so cleverly set up that once it hit me what they were about to do I was already shrinking back in my seat in anticipatory shock. It all builds beautifully, each scene getting more elaborate and insane as we go on until it almost makes sense that we end with a bang, even though I do kind of wish we didn’t. Not going to spoil anything here but the ending didn’t work for me, they went for something very over the top but they hinted at a more interesting ending relating to the family doubting the validity of the ritual they’re trying to perform (since the entire reason they’re doing all this murder is because they’re Satanists who believe bad things will happen if they don’t do this elaborate ritual). The interesting idea is played for a joke and then we get the climax that is certainly viscerally entertaining, but I prefer the interesting idea suggested… but that could just be me wanting to see the rich get some kind of comeuppance for once (seriously, when are we going to start eating the rich? Cos I have my utensils and seasonings ready)
The main draw of this movie is easily Samara Wiley who creates something genuinely iconic with her bloody bride. A simple visual of a bride with a bullet belt and sneakers? Seriously, this film is gift-wrapping a creative Halloween costume idea to its audience along with one of the toughest and most determined horror characters. She never stops fighting for even a second and it’s incredible, I feel safe to say she’s possibly the most badass horror heroine of the last few years. It’s nice to see that Samara can be either the villain, like she was in The Babysitter, or the hero. She’s working on being a modern scream queen and I’m all kinds of here for that. If she wants to be this generations version of Jaime Lee Curtis I would support that, please put her in more of these films where she gets to bludgeon rich people with heavy objects because that is a gloriously fun image to put on screen.
Ready or Not is just a delirious joyride of a film that invites you to have fun with it every step of the way. It’s hoping that you’ll laugh with it at the genuine insanity going on, even acknowledging that this entire premise is silly just to make sure you get the joke. It’ll have you smiling and laughing and screaming all within a few minutes of each other and even though I might have preferred a different ending, its climax is one of the most gloriously over-the-top things to be put in a horror movie for a while. It’s just a lot of fun and I’m so glad that it finally came down here. Seriously, I saw this opening day and I’m still a month late to the mainstream conversation on it because of very stupid release schedules that make no sense whatsoever in a global marketplace… this system of releasing in certain countries at certain times made sense back when there were 23 prints available of every film and they had to be transferred by boat but now we have internet and airplanes, you can do a worldwide release and make piracy seem like a less viable option.
So, yeah, the film was good and I liked it.