The class rage-fueled horror comedy Ready or Not is for anyone who’s been robbed of the life they deserve, in order to further someone else’s wealth, status, or tradition. It’s a bloody, hilarious, and satisfyingly mean parable that’s not only mad about income inequality. It’s mad about the rich themselves. How they gained their wealth, and the predatory practices that keep them in power. Granted, most upper-crust families don’t play twisted, murderous variations on parlor games to keep commoners from joining their ranks, but when a real-world version of The Purge seems likelier every day, Ready or Not’s metaphor is timely.
When former foster child Grace (Samara Weaving) marries into the Le Domas family, everything seems to fall into place. Not only does she love her husband Alex (Mark O’Brien) dearly, but finally having a close-knit family is a dream come true. Mostly everyone is welcoming, particularly Alex’s parents Becky and Tony (Andie MacDowell and Henry Czerny) and brother Daniel (Adam Brody), and even the most troublesome relative seems like nothing more than a quirky outlier.
Things change at midnight following the wedding, when the initiation ritual begins. According to tradition, new members of the family must pick a card from a mysterious box, and on that card is the game they play to be accepted. Grace, of course, chooses the one card she wished she hadn’t: Hide and Seek, where the hider must stay alive until dawn while being hunted with muskets, hatchets, knives, and crossbows.
Ready or Not
R, 96 minutes
Pulling off a conceit this big takes some nerve and a lot of skill, which Weaving and directors Matt Bettinelli- Olpin and Tyler Gillett do astonishingly well. After Alex reveals the true nature and history of the game, Grace’s evolution from shock to surprise to fury is magnificently carried by Weaving. She realizes that her life is in danger, but the knowledge that it is over something so stupid turns her situation from frightening to absurd. “The rich really are different,” she later remarks.
The truth of the game—and what the Le Domas family believes will happen if it doesn’t play—are better left unspoiled. Some believe the old story, and those who don’t, go along for the sake of tradition or preservation of status. Even the sympathetic members place their social and economic interest ahead of human decency or logic.
In addition to the class catharsis, Ready or Not is wickedly funny and will keep you guessing until the very end. Weaving’s star continues to rise, and it’s difficult to imagine this movie working without her, but every performance is pitch perfect, no matter the size of the role. The entire film takes place on the Le Domas family estate, as the directors demonstrate how to effectively maximize impact with limited resources. Ready or Not does a lot with little, where movies with twice the budget and dozens of locations often do little with a lot.
Local theater listings
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 375 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056.
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213.
Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000.