From the outset, Ready or Not looks like a bloody good time. The prospect of a scathing indictment of the 1% gussied-up with horror-comedy trappings seems especially enticing — and depressingly appropriate — in our current political climate. Unfortunately, filmmaking collective Radio Silence (directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and producer Chad Villella) has delivered an obvious, heavy-handed allegory that is neither particularly scary nor witty. Those looking for some sort of gonzo mash-up of Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, the cult classic board game adaptation Clue, and the unkillable Purge series should look elsewhere. Grace (Samara Weaving of Mayhem and The Babysitter) is a young woman with a semi-tragic past who, as the film opens, is marrying into the wealthy and prestigious Le Domas dynasty. As the family has earned its fortune through its board game and sporting goods empire, a wedding night tradition of game play seems especially appropriate. But what Grace soon discovers is that this particular night of Hide and Seek is actually a generations-spanning Satanic ritual of murderous mayhem, and that she must do whatever it takes to escape her sacrificial fate.
It would be easy to say we should give credit to a studio genre film that is even attempting to say something about systemic power and oppression, and how these things are passed on from one generation to the next. But at the end of the day, that only makes the viewing experience even more frustrating.
It is a supremely ridiculous premise, to be sure, but one rich in promise; you simply need filmmakers who are willing to take the proceedings either deadly serious or go balls-to-the-wall with it. Radio Silence, however, opt for a 50/50 split that kills all momentum. Whenever the film starts to find its groove, it immediately stops dead in its tracks so that characters can spout endlessly repetitious exposition dumps. Some of this could be forgiven if the social commentary was in any way incisive. What we have here, though, is toothless and reductive, with a heroine that is seemingly considered good-hearted because she grew up in the foster system and values family above all else. (The irony is not lost.) It would be easy to say we should give credit to a studio genre film that is even attempting to say something about systemic power and oppression, and how these things are passed on from one generation to the next. But at the end of the day, that only makes the viewing experience even more frustrating. If anyone deserves plaudits here, it is Weaving, who gives a truly committed performance. Plus, it’s hard to hate any film that features Adam Brody delivering his signature caustic bon mots. Too bad there was room for so much more.