Wedding-night horror comedy 'Ready or Not' wields laughs and gore

  • Bride Grace (Samara Weaving) tries to survive a deadly game with her heavily armed in-laws in the comic horror film "Ready or Not."

    Bride Grace (Samara Weaving) tries to survive a deadly game with her heavily armed in-laws in the comic horror film "Ready or Not." Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

 
 
Updated 8/22/2019 11:30 AM

"Ready or Not" -- ★ ★ ★

Traditionally, horror films released during late August (the so-called "dog days" of summer cinema) tend to be cheap, stupid and exploitative.

 

The trenchant, diabolically demented satire "Ready or Not" rewrites those rules and establishes a high standard for the late-summer genre.

Its lean construction moves at the speed of a crossbow arrow and ends at a perfectly timed 95 minutes.

Plus, its inspired Grand Guignol humor will have you wincing and shielding your eyes while you nervously laugh at its sidesplitting humor. Literally.

This lurid, comical blend of "Rosemary's Baby," "The Most Dangerous Game" and Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" begins with a flashback that reveals a bit too much of what bride-to-be Grace (Samara Weaving) is about to experience.

Grace and family black sheep Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien) are about to be married at his wealthy parents' gigantic gothic mansion, made possible by their fortune in the board game industry.

Once they tie the knot, "until death do us part" takes on a whole new meaning.

Alex's family has a tradition of playing a midnight game with new members of the clan. Grace is game for the game. She loves checkers.

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Instead, she selects a "Hide and Seek" card from an old game box. As the guest of honor, she gets to hide.

Alex's father Tony (Henry Czerny) instantly hands out the weapons, mostly guns to Alex's mother Becky (Andie MacDowell), his sympathetic brother Daniel (Adam Brody), the coke-snorting Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and ruthless Charity (Elyse Levesque).

He gives a crossbow to the snide Fitch (Kristian Bruun). Tony's sister Helene (Nicky Guadagni, resembling a character from "Nightmare Before Christmas") picks up an ax and can't wait to swing it.

The hunt begins. Poor Grace has no clue of the danger coming her way.

Armed with a clever cleaver of a script from Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett create an atmospheric Canadian production that meets George Romero's litmus test for good horror: gore and political commentary.

"Ready or Not," here comes a satirical indictment of the entitled rich, a dissection of romanticized marital bliss and a cautionary tale about holding on to superstitious beliefs, all anchored by Weaving's fully committed performance as the screaming, crying, fighting Grace, a resourceful heroine who not only makes a white wedding dress look good, but also adapts it to function as both a First-Aid tool and a lethal weapon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Call her an unbridled force.

Note: The restricted Red-Band trailer for "Ready or Not" spoils many of the film's shocks and surprises. Watch it at your own peril.

• • •

Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Other: A Fox Searchlight Pictures release. Rated R for drug use, language, violence. 95 minutes

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