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Review: Sadistic game of hide and seek at center of darkly comic 'Ready or Not'

 Courtesy of Fox Searchlight 


Your favorite childhood game of Hide & Seek gets a major, brutal, and violent makeover in the darkly comic and satirical “Ready or Not,” a horror comedy that mine as well be a hybrid of “The Hunger Games” and last year’s “Game Night.” 

Though more gruesome than either of those two films, “Ready or Not” is a late summer surprise that comes during a time when something that isn’t a sequel, reboot, or franchise starter needs to be celebrated. And the folks over at Fox Searchlight have embraced the campiness of this hard R rated slug fest that puts a sadistic spin on the cat and mouse thriller genre. 

What it lacks in an original premise, the filmmaking duo of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett make up for in execution (no pun intended). The film brings the laughs fast and loose, as we’re introduced to Grace (Samara Weaving - who gets the coveted MVP award this time around) whose fallen in love and is set to marry Alex (Mark O’ Brien) of the Le Domas “dominion” as they preferred to be called. 

Yet being married into this family comes with its fair share of ethics and guidelines. Sure, you’ve got to put up with obnoxious In-Laws; including the off-the-wall head patriarch of the family Tony Le Domas (Henry Czerny) and his zealous wife Becky (a very invested Andie MacDowell), but the biggest hurdle comes from a longstanding ritual enacted by the family’s ancestors. 

While some families traditions consist of going on trips, running marathons, or eating at a specific table within a restaurant, this clan randomly plays a game at the choosing of some unseen supernatural force. Grace is the bride, therefore she gets first dibs at randomly choosing a card, and when “Hide & Seek” turns up, let’s just say the Le Domas dominion have an unusual set of ethics about the popular children’s contest. 

So much for a quick game of Scrabble. 

Their version puts Grace on the run for her life, as Hide & Seek harbors a grueling new definition where the recently inducted member of the Le Domas squad is hunted for sport and, when caught, sacrificed to honor a longstanding satanic contract. 

Unlike previous souls, Grace doesn’t go down without a fight, managing to utilize and turn the smallest of household items into full on bludgeons. She’ll have to kick, claw, stab, and scream her way out before dawn or else the family claims the outlook for them is not good. Which only partly touches the surface of what Busick and Murphy’s are trying to satirize.   

And perhaps that’s what holds “Ready or Not” back from truly cementing itself as a future cult film. The scares are fairly meager, and the troupes all seem familiar to boot, and judging by the films insane, albeit hilarious, final sequence - the filmmakers clearly were holding back the entire film.

Yet those are minor quibbles, “Ready or Not” is still a smart and savvy parable on the wealthy elitists of our country and their constant appetite for more power. Plus it’s fun to watch the filmmakers deconstruct this class of people, especially by the hands of Samara Weaving’s badass Grace who gives the family a batch of memorable slayings. The hyper violence being so over-the-top that some of those unexpected kills get played for laughs. 

Weather “Ready or Not” struggles to reach maximum efficiency is a story for another day, but there’s no denying the film is fueled with enough manic energy and fresh perspective to deliver something wholly satisfying. The performances (especially Adam Brody’s hipster Daniel, Nicky Guadagnis crazy Aunt Helene, and Kristian Bruuns’ egoistical Fitch) are all devilish, strange, and off-beat, add in a script that packs the right amount of surprise within its grasp, and you get one nightmarish game that’s actually worth playing. 

Grade: B 

Ready or Not is now playing Nationwide.

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