Grace (Samara Weaving) couldn’t be happier after she marries the man of her dreams at his family’s luxurious estate. There’s just one catch – she must now hide from midnight until dawn while her new in-laws hunt her down with guns, crossbows and other weapons. Will she survive her wedding night?
Ready or Not is bonkers. The film starts at a terrific pace and doesn’t let up for its tight 95 min running time. Trust me when I say that this is not the type of cinema experience where you can plan a loo trip during a quiet moment: there are none.
Samara Weaving stars as Grace, who we meet on her wedding day. She’s marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien, Arrival), the estranged son of the immensely wealthy and eccentric board gaming dynasty, the Le Domas’… although they prefer “dominion”, darling.
Grace and Alex have a very happy relationship, it seems. Like so many modern couples, marriage is just something they’re doing because it’s what other people do… and it has very different results for each of them. The nuptials have forced our reluctant groom back into his family’s fold, whilst simultaneously providing Grace, who has been raised in foster homes, with the stability she craves.
This is an important detail when you consider the events that follow, as it does beg the question: why get married in the first place?
It’s quite a family Grace has tied herself to, headed up by patriarch Tony (professional ham, and favourite Revenge Zaddy, Henry Czerny); his wife, Becky (Andie “is it still raining I hadn’t noticed” McDowell); their eldest son, and slightly-too-into-Grace, Daniel (Adam Brody, forever Seth Cohen from The O.C), and his wife Charity; their drug sniffing sister Emilie, and her husband Fitch; and the terrifying matriarch, Aunt Helene, who closely resembles an evil Annie Lennox.
After the wedding, and just as the newlyweds are getting to what one would consider to be the traditional consummation of a marriage, Alex reveals that his family like to do it a little differently.
That’s right: to “officially” become a Le Domas, Grace has to one more thing: she has to play a game, a wedding night tradition that initiates new members of the family into the “dominion”. The game is selected at random from a box passed down through the generations, given to them by the family’s mysterious benefactor, Mr. Le Bail. Daniel’s wife got Chess, Emilie’s husband Old Maid… so far, so harmless.
Grace, though, draws “Hide and Seek”. Believing it be all slightly silly, she potters off to hide for a bit, not yet knowing that she has drawn the one card that results in death, for this family believe that if they don’t kill her by dawn then something terrible will befall them all. Traditions, eh?
What follows is a tense, gory, and frequently hilarious game of cat and mouse, as Weaving’s Grace ascends into the “Scream Queen” hall of fame, taking her place alongside Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode (Halloween), and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott (Scream). Her visual transformation from pristine white wedding dress to blood-soaked converse alone is an awesome Halloween costume waiting to happen.
As initial Twitter reactions have already made abundantly clear, Weaving is the shinning, blood-drenched light at centre of this film. And she carries it over some rocky ground, too, particularly with regards to the (sometimes) fairly clunky dialogue that other members of the cast have trouble chewing and swallowing.
All in all, though, this is a great comedy-horror. The score, by Brian Tyler (usually to be found in the Marvel Universe) is perfect, and the film looks seriously lush, despite all the blood, which is frequent and graphic. And, while we’re on the subject of gore, please bear in mind that this film is definitely not one for the faint-hearted: there’s a considerable amount of gore, which on the cinematic scale would register nearer Tarantino than Saw.
Many horror films often serve as allegories or metaphors for societal unease. However you could interpret Ready or Not a little more like a warning from a wary friend: there is no need to rush into marrying someone you’ve only known for 18 months. Give it a little longer, especially if your prospective in-laws line the walls of their mansion with scythes and shotguns.
Or, to put it more bluntly, if stability is what you crave, buy a sofa together. At least that’s an awkward thing to split in half.
Emily Gargan is one of Stylist’s resident film critics. She has a deep love for Pedro Almodóvar, Winona Ryder, felt-tip pens, and dogs named after food.
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