Fret not all ye seekers of homo sapien blood sport. While Universal has cancelled The Hunt's release after political pressure from Fox News and Donald Trump, a former subsidiary has no such compunction. Fox Searchlight's Ready or Not is a macabre black comedy about a wealthy family's wedding night tradition. It swings from devilishly funny to stomach churning violence in a breathlessly paced ninety-six minutes. The film is a satire on the lengths the rich will go to keep their ill-gotten fortunes. Ready or Not falls prey to contrivances in the final act, but is highly entertaining until then.
Grace (Samara Weaving) is a nervous bride before her wedding to the fabulously wealthy Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien). A poor young woman raised in foster homes, she worries about her acceptance into the gilded Le Domas clan. Her future mother-in-law (Andie MacDowell) thanks her for bringing their wayward son back home. The groom's disdainful father (Henry Czerny), stern aunt (Nicky Guadagni), and haughty relatives aren't as accepting. Only his brother (Adam Brody) expresses concern about Grace's feelings, and pointedly reminds she can still walk away.
After an intimate ceremony at the stately Le Domas manor, Alex informs Grace of a family ritual. Anyone marrying into the family must participate in a game on their wedding night. The family made their fortune long ago selling simple cards. Grace must choose a card from a special container that will dictate the game they play. The only rule is that she must play successfully until sunrise the next day. Grace's initial laughter turns to screams as she realizes the true extent of the game.
Ready or Not skewers wealthy elites by using ridicule and horror. The Le Domas family are willing prisoners of a golden cage. Some have doubts about the game, but zero interest in not playing. They will do anything, even murder, to preserve their lifestyle. The plan goes quickly south with several unexpected situations. The plot stays remarkably crisp as Grace proves to be a slippery target. Ready or Not steers clear of standard horror tropes until a middling ending.
Ready or Not treads into gruesome territory. Grace takes a bloody beating during her ordeal, but comes out like roses compared to several characters. The Devil's Due directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have sharpened their genre skills. Ready or Not is not mindlessly gory. The carnage rings humorous in some scenes and terrifying in others. There's a cohesiveness to the plot that works during most of the runtime. Ready or Not never lets the social and class commentary overtake the horror merits. Sprinkled bits of humor add satirical levity at key moments. Ready or Not would have been truly exceptional if the filmmakers had kept up the creativity throughout.
Ready or Not has not been targeted for its subject matter. I chalk that up to a marketing campaign which didn't arouse political ire. The film is smaller in scale, has limited gunplay, and lampoons the wealthy in general; instead of specific political views. America has sadly been awash in mass casualty shootings for twenty years. Ready or Not is a work of satirical horror fiction and should be seen as such. A different case can be made on the overall levels of gore and violence in modern Hollywood films, but Ready or Not is not the poster child for the cause. Ready or Not is produced by Mythology Entertainment and Vinson Films with distribution from Fox Searchlight.