Ready or not, the in-laws come

A fresh horror-comedy film for a tired genre

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The best part of a wedding night? Surviving bloody-thirsty, cultish in-laws, obviously.

At least, that’s the highlight of Grace Le Domas’ wedding night in directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s film “Ready or Not.” The film centers on a young bride, played by Samara Weaving, as she first prepares for, then tries to survive, her wedding. In the opening scene, two young boys race through the halls of a mansion with antique decor, both panting, both terrified. The older of the two shoves the other boy into a wardrobe and then spins around, only to come face-to-face with a man in a tuxedo, blood spilling between his fingers. As the man begs for his life, the boy calls out to a group of adults wearing masks, and the dying man is dragged from the frame, where he presumably is sacrificed by his bride.

And the film only gets stranger.

As the audience is taken into present-day, they’re introduced to Grace, dressed in a simply gorgeous wedding gown, on her the morning of her wedding. She talks to herself — a character quirk quickly making her both relatable and adorable — in front of an ornate mirror, while her soon-to-be husband Alex Le Domas, played by Mark O’Brien, watches her from the doorway. At first, the couple’s interactions are awkward, with too-long pauses and lingering looks, but the characters settle into the rhythm of talking to each other. By the second scene the couple shares, the quiet pauses between the two shred the awkwardness in favor of quiet, sweet affection.

Through the rest of the wedding, the audience is introduced to a memorable cast of supporting characters — Alex’s large family is impossibly wealthy and holds a powerful position in the board gaming industry. Alex’s older brother Daniel, played by Adrian Brody, shines as a drunkard weighed down with a family secret, and the film reveals early that Alex and Daniel were the children in the opening scene. In the decades since the boys were forced to play the twisted version of hide-and-seek, Daniel has never recovered from revealing the location of the now-dead groom while protecting his younger brother.

With the wedding over, Grace is asked by her new family to play one game that a mysterious box chooses. Every time someone new joins the family, Alex’s father explains, they play a game on the wedding night. Confused but desperate to please her in-laws, Grace picks up a card from the box, revealing that she is to play hide-and-seek.

Immediately, the film’s tone shifts. Although dark humor permeates the entirety of “Ready or Not,” the plot seems to be suddenly yanked into the movie, sending Grace on a desperate fight that will last the whole night. As she wanders the halls of the mansion, still believing she is playing a simple game of hide-and-seek, the Le Domas family readies several different weapons, ranging from crossbows to rifles, to find and kill Grace. Alex, meanwhile, immediately begins planning a way to break through the electronically locked doors of the mansion to help Grace escape.

Once Alex’s sister, who has taken too many drugs to fully understand who everyone is, accidentally kills a maid, Grace realizes the danger she’s in, and spends the rest of the night running between rooms, across the lawn, through fences and even through the surrounding forest in an attempt to find help. Gradually, she realizes the Le Domas family’s ancestor made a pact with the devil — in return for a powerful gaming empire, the Le Domas family must kill any new addition to the family before dawn, during a game of hide-and-seek.

While Grace fights to survive, still maintaining that quirk of talking to herself in any situation, the supporting characters are killed in a chaotic, borderline-hilarious fashion.

“Ready or Not” dips easily between thriller and comedy, and it doesn’t shy away from gore. While the humor makes the Le Domas family memorable and, surprisingly, easy to root for, the gore grounds the game’s danger and Grace’s fear. From the beginning of the film, the camera work is beautiful, with long tracking shots and expertly maneuvered angles. The set design complements the camera work in an impressive way, and the gorgeous, Victorian-style setting makes every scene, suspenseful or calm, eye-catching.

The one place the film strays is in its main characters. While the supporting cast is full of life, and memorable lines, Alex’s characterization varies considerably. He changes from strong in his convictions to leave his cultish family to an angry, child-like version of himself, ready to betray Grace. The change in character is absolutely compelling and could have served as a wonderful twist to a unique story, but the change happened too suddenly to be satisfying. The beginning of the film spent so much time building character in a slow, drawn-out manner, but it didn’t seem to leave enough room for the end.

Despite the flaws in the ending, “Ready or Not” is a fresh take on a tired genre. The movie never strays too far into comedy, electing instead to embed the humorous moments after the most suspenseful scenes, and Grace thrives as a quirky protagonist caught in an unlikely situation.

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