Capital sacrifice is family value in “Ready or Not,” a satirical splatter
Ready or Not
directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
written by Guy Busick & Ryan Murphy
acted by Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston.
running time: 95 minutes
MPAA-rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use.
Donald Trump and Fox News apparently feel America is ready for Fox Searchlight’s “Ready or Not”– but not ready for NBC Universal’s “The Hunt.” Both films show rich Americans hunting other Americans.
On August 9 Trump had seen neither film when he attacked “Liberal Hollywood” in a two-part Tweet: “The movie coming out is made in order….” “ ….to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others.”
Trump never named “the movie coming out” but White House watchers guess he watched Fox TV coverage of the postponed release of “The Hunt.” “Ready or Not” comes out today with no alarms about screen violence. Yet Trump– and his informants at Fox News– did not imagine that “Ready or Not” is in fact an attack on fiscal evil underlying his three-generation family wealth?
“Ready or Not” begins on a stormy night in a big old house as a well-armed family in evening clothes hunts down a bloodied man scared witless. Two little boys witness this gory hide-and-seek played by grown-ups upholding the Le Domas family tradition that stipulates a game must be played at midnight on every wedding day. Or else. The game’s loser wed into this weird family earlier that day.
Thirty years later one of those brothers, Alex (Mark O’Brien), weds Grace (Samara Weaving) at the Le Domas mansion. Raised by foster parents belonging to a much lower tax bracket, Grace fears her new in-laws hate her. “Your family is richer than God,” she tells to Alex.
They are getting frisky in bed when Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) interrupts to instruct the new member of the Le Domas family she must play a game. If Grace signed a pre-nuptial agreement, it no doubt omitted a line she hears once she is in play: “When you marry into this family you have to play a game and if you don’t you die. You have to play.”
Grace draws a card from an odd wooden box. It’s for Hide-and-Seek. An unseen hand drops the needle on vintage vinyl and the cheery creepy “The Hide and Seek Song” echoes throughout the house: “Run, run, run! Time to run and hide!… Tick tick tock, Are you ready or not?” Grace runs indeed in her yellow Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. Tears her wedding dress again and again. It gets bloody. She does too.
“Ready or Not” is the second feature by directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who made the 2014 horror-thriller “Devil’s Due.” Both begin with a wedding. Writers Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy offer imperiled-woman-survivor-without-a-savior-chase fun with cynical flair.
First touch is cuing Beethoven’s Ninth as bridal fanfare. Then we glimpse the first of Aunt Helene’s malevolent glares at Grace. Seated in the front row for the vows, Helene wears a black suit accessorized with morbid purple. Observe her severely coiffed silver hair and chiseled sunken-cheeked mien. This sight gag package can steal a scene. She icily greets a wedding guest: “Brown-haired niece, you continue to exist.”
The script eviscerates the family values of the Le Domas clan. One accuses Alex, I think: “Thanks to you now we’re all now fucking fucked.” Grace deploys “fuck” with a winning array of line readings, including this for less-than-forthcoming Alex: “Fuck your fucking family!” At first they are merely “your moderately fucked-up family.”
Alex’s kin are comically monstrous. Each gets at least one sympathetic moment that belies caricature. Even the Le Domas with a pronounced incompetence in killing, as two luckless lookalike nannies discover. “Every character has a very fun death,” states executive producer Tara Farney in the film’s production notes. “In the days we shot those scenes, everyone’s getting bloody and there’s blood everywhere. It’s absolutely disgusting… Everyone was having a lot of fun with it.”
The family’s money and its curse are intertwined in Le Domas lore about a Civil War card game entrepreneur and his mysterious investor who exacts sacrificial dividends from descendants. One of whom yells at the painting of the ancestor for his artless dealmaking: “You couldn’t have negotiated better terms? Talked him down on the whole eradication clause?”
“Fucking rich people!” screams Grace after failing to get help from a sports car speeding by her on a dark road outside the estate. That got a laugh at the screening I went to. Ditto the last line of her new father-in-law Tony (Henry Czerny): “I played by the rules and I am in control.” Supernatural payback for skipping a payment ensues.
“It’s true what they say,” admits Grace’s new brother-in-law Daniel (Adam Brody). “The rich really are different.” There’s a little irony there but none at all when he judges himself and his relatives: “we all deserve to die.” Maybe excepting his new sister-in-law. She delivers her last line when an off-screen paramedic asks, “Jesus Christ, what happened to you?”
“In-laws,” answers Grace.
“Ready or Not” might not be what Trump had in mind when he recently told reporters: “What they’re doing with the kind of movies that they’re putting out is actually very dangerous to our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country… They treat conservatives, Republicans totally different than they treat others. And they can’t do that.”
There’s no clue how many members of the Le Domas family voted for Trump, but I can imagine him tweeting or retweeting a defense of them as victims of the “Liberal Elite” in Hollywood. Would he endorse the outlawing of a 1913 film by the Ohio film commission, as reported in Motion Picture World?: “The picture was rejected because the censor thought it wrong to satirize the hypocritical rich and to reflect critically upon one of the evils of the existing social order.”
Trump might even buy the next sentence repurposed for the Putin era: “This is the Russian way of dealing with mediums of expression.”
– Bill Stamets