Is it an assault on the selfish preoccupations of the obscenely rich? Is it a horror movie bathed in the requisite amount of blood-soaked revulsion? Is it an ironic commentary on an already overloaded genre?
Ready or Not qualifies as all of those things. A broad agenda works to the movie’s advantage -- at least until the moments it doesn’t. And for all its ambitions, Ready or Not is held together and elevated by something far less hip and much more traditional than genre play, the aggressive physicality and amusing reactions of lead actress Samara Weaving.
Weaving plays Grace, a young bride who’s marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family. But there's a condition and it’s not a prenup. Grace must play a game that will begin at the stroke of midnight after her wedding. Although Grace doesn't know it, the object of the game is her death. The Le Domas family believes that if the game isn't played to its lethal conclusion, they will die. Their belief has something to do with a curse handed down by the man who helped the family build its vast fortune -- or something like that.
Grace's husband knows that the game looms and he tries to help his new wife survive. Some of the family members, notably brother Daniel (Adam Brody), experience pangs of conscience about the family’s willingness to slaughter innocents to preserve its status and wealth.
As social satire, the movie hardly qualifies as original or deep, but the directors play many of the scenes for comic effect. Taste prevails in such matters. For me, the humor seemed hit-and-miss, although it's difficult not to be amused by what turns out to be history's worst honeymoon.
Ready or Not includes a cast of serviceable characters. Dad (Henry Czerny) is an autocratic tyrant and not much more. A frighteningly determined Mom (Andie MacDowell) puts family values — in this case, loyalty — above everything else. A man who married into the family (Kristian Bruun) is a bit of a dolt. A sister (Melanie Scrofano) proves incompetent. She's prone to shooting people by accident.
Aunt Helene (Nicky Gaudagni) sports a severe blonde haircut that makes her look like a mortician who specializes in burying punk rock musicians who over-dosed. She's so instantly creepy that you wonder why Grace doesn’t bolt at the sight of her, thereby avoiding the rest of the movie.
All of this proceeds in peppy fashion as directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett create a mood that's as wacky as it is frightening. The movie's wince-inducing moments have less to do with suspense or fear than with the physical beating that Grace takes and with the graphic displays of blood that this game of hide-and-seek produces.
Ready or Not certainly isn't for all tastes. But the movie scores enough to provide a fair measure of bloody fun with Weaver giving it plenty of drive.