Exit Poll is a series exploring the good, bad, and outright deranged films our editors are attending. This week: Mark Burger takes a stab at Ready Or Not, an uncomplicated comedy-thriller that’s something of a Frankenstein’s monster of horror movies—this time with wealthy WASPs, battle axes, and the Devil.
Family is complicated. Longstanding traditions can seem strange or even farcical to outsiders, yet nonetheless hold immense importance amongst their keepers, who are determined to keep their family history alive. Some have intimate holiday rituals, others keep books of ancestral histories, and some hunt their new daughter-in-law on her wedding night (different strokes, different folks).
Tradition and its pitfalls are at the foundation of Ready Or Not, a twisted, late summer black comedy-thriller about a family of rich people hunting human targets for sport (no, not that one). Enter Grace (Samara Weaving), a blushing bride on the day of her wedding who is both the beating heart of the film and a dead ringer for Margot Robbie. Orphaned and without a family of her own, Grace hopes to find one with the mysterious and eccentric Le Domas “dominion.” Despite her enthusiasm, she is warned by her future family that she’ll have to play by the Le Domas rules if she truly wants to become one of them. Owing their generational wealth to a franchise of playing cards and board games, new family members must randomly select a game to play in order to be initiated into the clan. Grace is game–past weddings have included Old Maid and Go Fish (“or something”), so what’s the big deal? Naturally, Grace selects the very game you’re not supposed to pick: hide-and-seek. Though the game retains the core concept, the Le Domas version includes crossbows, battle axes, and old-fashioned shotguns. The goal: to hunt down the victim (this time around, Grace) inside their labyrinthine mansion before sunrise.
If you think you’ve heard this story before, you probably have. The experience of watching Ready Or Not is something akin to ordering a bot to watch 1,000 hours of every horror film released in the last fifteen years, then making it write its own script, then putting that script in a blender and snorting the ashes off a brass-plated, antique mahogany bureau. Think Saw meets You’re Next meets The Purge, with some 19th century weapons, a marble foyer, and a barn full of goats for good measure. Though it’s not necessarily bringing anything original to the table, Ready Or Not works moderately well with what’s already there, balancing its thrills with moments of levity, and frequently referencing its own absurd premise. The film routinely makes jokes at the expense of the Le Domas empire, most notably their over-the-top wealth and their apparent need to kill off a new bride or groom every couple of decades. Due to a relative dearth of any actual character development (homicidal one-percenters are human, too!) and the relative quickness with which the film’s settings are established, Ready Or Not is able to capitalize on its value as a rambunctious cat-and-mouse caper. Though not quite campy enough for instant cult classic status, Ready Or Not is at the very least entertaining, a glimmer of light during August’s historically dull string of releases. Plus, if you’re going to watch a movie you’ve basically already seen, at least this one doesn’t have any creepy CGI lions. Uncomplicated and amusing, Ready Or Not is a game worth watching, if just to escape the summer sun for an hour or two. Plus, what could be more cathartic than watching, from a safe, air-conditioned distance, the uber-rich chase each other around a mansion in what’s essentially an extended, R-rated Scooby-Doo chase sequence?