“Ready or Not” is a “Get Out” that doesn’t quite get it, a “Purge” that pulls its most important punches.
It’s a horror movie as social satire, about the rich hunting and killing their “inferiors.” You know, similar in plot to “The Hunt,” the one Fox News and Trump got pulled from release.
But the satire here turns limp as the supernatural is introduced.
And when you build your film on that classic foundation, the humans-hunt-humans/hunters-become-the-hunted formula invented as “The Most Dangerous Game,” you tamper with that formula at your own peril.
Grace (Samara Weaving, from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”) is marrying into the uber-rich Le Domas (snort) family. Alex (Mark O’Brian) dotes on her, jokes about the family’s board game empire — “We prefer ‘dominion.” And he offers her, in her white dress all set to walk down the aisle, “an out.”
We’re getting the “She’ll never be one of us” vibe from the future in-laws, although Alex’s mother (Andie MacDowell, in fine form), who also married into the “dominion,” pooh poohs her fears that “your blood will never be blue enough.”
It’ll be fine. Sure. That prologue with little boys fleeing the mayhem of some sort of murderous hunt, decades before, through the halls of stately Le Domas Hall? Think nothing of it.
Grace is a salty, free-spirited woman who makes her own decisions, and she doesn’t regret Alex’s “You wanted this” proviso, even on the wedding night, when their conjugal bliss is postponed by a family “ritual.” The new bride must pass muster by playing a game.
Fine. Except that game is “Hide and Seek,” and these Le Domas’s play for keeps. She must must elude the patriarch (veteran villain Henry Czerny), matriarch (MacDowell), evil Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), Charity (Elyse Levesque), Emilie (Melanie Scrofano), Alex’s drunken brother Daniel (Adam Brody) and Fitch (Kristian Bruun) and even Alex himself, until dawn.
The thing Grace must figure out on her own? That they’re chasing her with shotguns, rifles, battleaxes, bows and crossbows. Even Alex.
“YOU wanted to get married!” doesn’t let him off the hook.
What ensues is meant to be splatter-comic mayhem as our heroine survives narrow escapes and turns the game around on her pursuers through her own pluck, native cunning and hardening ruthlessness.
That’s what’s sold in the trailers, anyway. That and the satire.
But the script gives Grace few moments that suggest her agency in her own fate. Time and again, she’s a goner. And she isn’t finished off. Time and again, she has the drop on her murderous pursuers, and doesn’t cross the line she will need to cross to survive.
That’s kind of admirable, in a “take the high road” sense. It’s a way of subverting expectations, I suppose. But it’s frustrating and it doesn’t work dramatically.
And when the rich are trying to take your life, it’s nonsense.
The villains here are a generally toothless lot, expressing sympathy for their victim, professing a lack of “choice” in the matter — the whole supernatural or “The rich are as superstitious as everybody else” subtext, which is a non-starter. The performances are mostly 50 shades of blasé.
Czerny is properly loathsome, and Guadagni of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (of course), is thoroughly, hilariously vile. The rest? Meh.
If you chuckle at semi-creative ways bit players (the help) are dispatched, get your giggles at the death gurgles of the impaled or shotgunned bleeding out, this might be the horror comedy for you. I found it grim going.
This is great fodder for satire. It’s not that there isn’t a lot of that rich-preying-on-the-rest-of-us stuff in ample evidence in the news and in plain sight. Super-rich sexual predator rings, self-serving anti-patriots who throw democracy, social justice and common decency under the bus for the sake of tax cuts for their extra-national class, which by and large, is above reproach and beyond the law or any justice, poetic and otherwise.
But as I kept waiting for Grace to take control of her destiny, to do unto others as they’re doing unto her, the “class war” so feared by the fat cat fascists and their Fox News propaganda arm, my mind wandered over to “The Hunt.”
I kept waiting for the big blows to land. I kept waiting for this movie, which wants to be about something, to be about something.
We can only wonder, until something changes with “The Hunt,” if the inferior movie was the only one to get released.
MPAA Rating:Rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use
Cast: Samara Weaving, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, Nicky Guadagni, Mark O’Brien
Credits: Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillettm script by Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy. A Fox Searchlight release.
Running time: 1:35