By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — The honeymoon is over even before it begins in the nuptial-themed horror fantasy “Ready or Not” (Fox Searchlight).
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s film starts with a sketchy, complicated premise and eventually becomes a thoroughly unpleasant slog through a series of increasingly gruesome encounters in the lead-up to a climactic sequence that must be among the bloodiest ever filmed.
Pity poor newlywed Grace (Samara Weaving). No sooner is the marriage ceremony splicing her to Alex (Mark O’Brien), scion of the vastly wealthy game manufacturing Le Domas dynasty, over than she belatedly makes an alarming discovery. One of Alex’s ancestors, it seems, long ago made a devilish pact that could have fatal consequences for her.
The tangled terms of the Faustian bargain by which the clan obtained their fortune dictate that each new member draw a card with the name of a game on it. Most of these are innocuous, but if the bride or groom is unlucky enough to wind up with the card marked “Hide and Seek,” as Grace of course does, then a murderous hunt ensues.
Thus Grace finds herself being pursued by Alex’s relatives — most prominently, brother Daniel (Adam Brody), dad Tony (Henry Czerny) and mom Becky (Andie MacDowell) — through the rooms and corridors of their vast mansion. They’re motivated by the belief, derived from family lore, that if Grace survives until dawn all of them will die a ghastly death.
The tone of the pitch-black humor with which screenwriters Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy imbue the proceedings is typified by the character of Alex’s loose-cannon sister, Emilie (Melanie Scrofano). A cocaine addict, Emilie accidentally takes out a series of extras while trying to slay Grace. This comic motif might work if more discreetly handled, but here outrageous gore is apparently meant to be part of the fun.
Grace proves unexpectedly resourceful. Yet the audience isn’t only asked to cheer her on as she fights for her life, they’re invited to revel in the vengeance she wreaks on those chasing her. As a result, “Ready or Not” ends up appealing to viewers’ darkest impulses as Grace strangles one adversary and bashes another’s head into pulp.
The film contains excessive gory violence, drug use, about a dozen profanities and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.