The waning days of August are traditionally a time for briefly releasing of films that distributors view as second stringers, titles unfit to compete with summer blockbusters or the big-ticket pictures to come in the fall and holiday season. That doesn't mean they're bad films, just that they may not have the star power of an A-list movie.
Indeed, there's a lot to be said for a competently produced B movie that stays true to itself within the confines of a modest budget. Ready or Not is such a film, made for the unbelievably low sum of around $6 million, less than the cost of a single episode of Game of Thrones.
The plot's fairly simple, though not immediately obvious. Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying Alex (Mark O'Brien), scion of the zillionaire Le Domas family, a dynasty which has made its fortune selling America board games for the past 150 years. But to be accepted as a Le Domas, Grace must play a game, to be randomly chosen, with the family on her wedding night. What she doesn't realize — although the audience does, thanks to the widely seen previews — is that losing at Hide and Seek will also mean losing her life. The Le Domases play for keeps.
The biggest cast names are Henry Czerny and Andie McDowell as Anthony and Becky Le Domas, parents to Alex and his little brother Daniel. As Daniel, it's Adam Brody who gets the most layered role in the film, as the only member of the family to have any sympathy for the unsuspecting Grace.
Yet it's Weaving who commands our attention as the pluckier-than-thou heroine whose job it is to survive her wedding night and the movie in general. As Grace confronts family member after family member, her gorgeous wedding dress (an obvious symbol of innocence) becoming more disheveled and bloody with every violent encounter, I kept thinking, "Somebody needs to make an action figure of that girl!" Weaving joins a proud tradition of (usually) blonde women wearing blood-spattered snow-white wedding or prom dresses, and I don't think anybody ever made an action figure of Uma Thurman from Kill Bill (I could be wrong), but I'll bet there's a Sissy Spacek figure out there somewhere.
But should people desperately trying to kill each other be entertaining? I have to admit — albeit guiltily, of course — that I was pretty amused for the movie's hour-and-35-minute running time, and most of it is indeed running. I found myself chortling when victims, family members and domestics, met their horrendous fates. Of course, I can understand how people who may have confronted real violence in their lives wouldn't find all of this quite as funny, and in my more reflective moments, I probably wouldn't either. But I'd still be entertained by Brett Jutkiewicz's shadowy cinematography and Terel Gibson's smooth editing, both of which are very nicely accomplished.
It's hard to classify Ready or Not as a simple horror movie in light of its subversive message. The Le Domases — and, by extension, others, if not all of the insanely wealthy — have literally sold their souls for money. It doesn't matter how many plebeians have to die to support the family. They're just collateral damage, sacrifices, willing or unwilling.
That is until the sacrificial goats wake up and fight back. It seems ironic on a weekend when one of the biggest news items has Americans pondering whether they should grieve or applaud the death of an allegedly rapacious billionaire, or whether we should encourage the purchase of Greenland at the behest of a professed one.
It’s not exactly an allegory, but Ready or Not is timely in that it embodies literal class warfare between the playboys/playgirls and the working world.