Review by C.J. Bunce

Is there a great movie to take your spouse for your anniversary?  Ready or Not may be the one.  An atmospheric Gothic story that doubles as dark comedy and horror-lite cautionary tale, it’s a fun flick that will get you in the mood for the holiday–Halloween, that is.  It’s about a wedding, about marriage, and marrying into a new family.  And in-laws.  It’s also about the dark side of families, the skeletons in the closet.  Australian actress Samara Weaving plays Grace, and we meet her on her wedding day, marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien), a young man who has tried to extricate himself from his eccentric family.  But now he’s back.  He warns his new bride that his family has a “first night” tradition, requiring her to participate in a game.  First she must draw a card and all she must do is play the game.  To her surprise, statistics of chance kick in and she draws the single dreaded card, for “Hide and Seek.”  The house rule for this game is the new member of the family is the target, and it’s a game played to the death.  Is the family crazy, or is there some real dark force behind their madness?

As you might guess from the trailers, it’s like Quentin Tarentino bought the rights to direct a Clue remake and merged it with another Kill Bill sequel and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.  Credit the setting with much of Ready or Not′s atmosphere, filming at mansions Casa Loma and Parkwoods Estate in Ontario.  Behind the action of characters running through the house is expert production design by Andrew M. Stearn (Chicago, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killjoys) and costumes (including a noteworthy wedding dress that devolved over the course of the film) by Avery Plewes (The Umbrella Academy, Star Trek Discovery).  Fans of the classic creep-fest Wicker Man take note: This is another film about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Samara Weaving shows she’s ready to take on the big roles going today to the likes of Margot Robbie and Emma Stone.  A big high point of the film is the mix of quietly haunting and jumpy, rousing music, thanks to composer Brian Tyler (Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Aliens v. Predator: Requiem, The Final Destination, The Expendables, Thor: The Dark World).

Most of the fun comes from a supporting cast of familiar faces.  Genre TV watchers should recognize Orphan Black’s Donnie (Kristian Bruun) and Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano, playing a hysterical sister and brother-in-law.  Other familiar faces include Andie MacDowell (Groundhog Day) as the bride’s mother-in-law (MacDowell seems to conjure Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill here), her husband is Clear and Present Danger’s Henry Czerny, with Elyse Levesque (Stargate Universe, Orphan Black), Hanneke Talbot (iZombie, Star Trek Discovery), and John Ralston (Haven, Reign) rounding out the key players.  The most interesting is the bride’s new brother-in-law, played by Shazam!’s Adam Brody.

Ready or Not proves you don’t need a big budget to entertain an audience for a few hours–at a cost of $6 million, it easily made a mint for a small film, approaching $45 million at the box office only four weeks into its theatrical run, and it’s not even opened in the UK yet (it begins there next week).  The film is directed by Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, both new entrants in the horror genre.  Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy′s script is peppered with callbacks and Easter eggs to past mystery movies.

Ready or Not is Rated R, but only for language and splattery blood and gore that doesn’t touch most of what you’d find on any current prime time detective show.  It also has some occult references which may not be for all audiences.

Really it’s all a bunch of goofy fun.  It would make an ideal pick for a Halloween film, if it remains in theaters that long (a good sign is it doesn’t yet have a DVD/Blu-ray release date).  So see it in the theater before it’s gone.  Ready or Not is in theaters now.

 

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