Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ready or Not (18) – bonkers, macabre, gorefest that will have you rolling in the aisle (cinemas from Wednesday 25 September)

“Ready or not, here I come” is the traditional shout that follows counting to ten or a hundred in the few games of hide I seek I played as a child. In the case of new movie, Ready or Not tells the barbaric tale of a troubled family’s initiation ceremony for people marrying into the household.

The set-up is that a long-dead benefactor Mr Le Bail helped create the Le Domas family fortune built around a boardgame business. However, at midnight on the day of any wedding, his wishes are that the family must gather in a spooky candlelit mansion, and Le Bail’s box reveals a single playing card indicating which game the relatives must play. Snakes and Ladders would be fairly benign, and not a million miles away from a plot that Downton Abbey could execute. However, if the Hide and Seek card comes out, the external doors are locked, and the newest member of the family must be hunted down using a variety of weapons and sacrificed before dawn. Or else, misfortune will wipe out the Le Domas dynasty.

Guess which game the family relish the random opportunity to play when the gorgeous Grace (Samara Weaving) marries the equally gorgeous Alex (Mark O'Brien)? He’s been self-estranged from the rest of his madcap family for some years, and quite rightly so.

Andie MacDowell plays the at-first-welcoming later-menacing mother-in-law. Nicky Guadagni is magnificent as axe-wielding Aunt Helene whose own marriage was tragically – but understandably, to Le Domas way of thinking – unable to be consummated due to the death of her new husband. Henry Czerny reprises his role as Conrad Grayson (Revenge) and conjures up an evil father-in-law.

But the plaudits rightfully lie in the injured hands of Samara Weaving who takes Grace from being a giddy, loved-up bride to show her inner steel that could easily match Die Hard’s John McClane for tenacity and physical drive.

Ready or Not is my kind of horror movie. (‘Finally!’, say movie preview organisers with a collective sign of relief.) There is no underlying moral. This is not about taking risks for love, or putting family before everything else. It’s a slightly bonkers, macabre, gorefest which doesn’t take its premise too seriously, and even allows the characters to question why they adhere to certain rules which appear traditional but stand up to even less scrutiny than the premise of the film.

The area of gameplay slowly expands and Grace’s wedding dress endures ever more collateral damage. There were moments which took me back to the surprisingly mirthful Game Night, but this is a very different beast.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett pull off the trick of planting a grin on audience faces right at the moment something grotesque happens. The accidental dispatch of members of the household staff never fails to be comical. (Being “crushed by the dumb waiter” is particularly fun.) You’ll duck in your seat when trigger-happy sister-in-law Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) takes hold of any weapon. And towards the end, technology gets a chance to play its frustrating part in this game of Capture the Bride.

Ready or Not (18) is being screened in UK and Irish cinemas from Wednesday 25 September.

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