Horror-comedy is a tricky genre to navigate. In combining horror and comedy, the conventions of each rely on the element of surprise. So what better way to work them in then setting them around hide and seek, a game equal parts fun and suspenseful? Ready or Not mines a few laughs and scares from its premise, sending up notions of family, marriage, and tradition along the way. The film doesn’t re-invent the wheel, taking a lot of inspiration from films like The Most Dangerous Game, but it plays with its premise in a way that accomplishes what it sets out do to.
Ready or Not begins by introducing us to the Le Domas family, and we get a sneak peak of a past session of their murderous take on “hide and seek.” You see, the family made all its money in gaming, like a creepy version of Hasbro or Parker Brothers. The patriarch of the family made a deal with a certain Mr. Le Bail, who promised his progeny great wealth and success, as long as they play a potentially murderous game whenever a new person joins the family. Cutting to the present day, we meet Grace, a new person to the family, as she marries Alex Le Domas. Alex never told her much about the family, and in fact cut himself away from it for a while. Grace never had much of a family growing up, so she’s thrilled to join. Until she picks the “hide and seek” card, and the rest of the family has to hunt her down in order to fulfill their pact.
As a satirical horror-comedy, the film has a lot of fun. Each member of the family has their own quirks and eccentricities. The film mines a lot of laughs from the fact that these snobby elites have no idea how to effectively hunt someone down and kill them. Fitch Googles how to use weapons, while Emilie has a running gag of firing her gun at the wrong times and targets, while continuously doing hard drugs to get her nerves under control. The film effectively sets up these characters and other gags at the beginning, but unfortunately leaves them by the wayside during a middle section that slows down a bit. By this point, we get more exposition and the film narrows in on Grace’s plight. While Grace is certainly a compelling character, films in this vein benefit more from character than plot, so it’s a shame that the film struggles to juggle both.
Unsurprisingly, Ready or Not is a satirical film about the 1%. The social commentary isn’t always subtle, especially towards the end, but it is mostly effective. While the Le Domas family has its fair share of buffoons, it nevertheless proves odious in its obsession with status and absolute disregard for others. Nevertheless, despite the family member’s individual quirks, we do get glimmers of their insecurities which help flesh them out into more than just stock caricatures. The satire has some nuance as well. You might be surprised that a film in which someone gets shot in the mouth with a crossbow also explores how excessive wealth can easily normalize unconventional behavior as well as the debts, if any, that one owes their family. It’s not especially deep across the board, but it does raise a couple of interesting questions.
As for the performances, Samara Weaving is a surprise standout. I say surprise since many, myself included, seemed to mistake her for Margot Robbie in the initial trailers. Even Weaving herself admits that she’s frequently mistaken for the Suicide Squad star. But after seeing the movie, I have to eat my slice of humble pie. Weaving has her own talents, and brings a dry comedic deadpan to the film. It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Grace goes through a lot, and Weaving proves that she can move seamlessly from charming to frightened to emboldened to the myriad of other states of mind she finds herself in. Across the board, the character work is solid. As I said, it’s a shame we don’t see more of the family. But it’s a testament to the actors that they can convey the basic gist of their roles with what little time they’re given.
Ready or Not has tons of twists and turns that continuously subvert audience expectations. The film also boasts solid self-awareness. It takes its wacky concept and runs with it. At one point, a character bellows out the phrase, “you think this is a game!?” And the answer is yes. The characters play their game of hide-and-seek and the film plays its game of continuously setting expectations and subverting them. It also plays the game of putting roadblock in front of roadblock ahead of our protagonist and then creating new ways for her to get around them. Like any good game, it’s often fun to simply watch.
Despite a middle portion that sags, Ready or Not plays by the rules of any great horror-comedy, successfully balancing both genres in a way that provides scares and gore along with wit and social satire.