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  Ready or Not No Hiding Place
Year: 2019
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Stars: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O'Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni, John Ralston, Liam McDonald, Ethan Tavares, Hanneke Talbot, Celine Tsai, Daniela Barbosa, Andrew Anthony
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It should have been the happiest day of her life, but Grace (Samara Weaving), has no idea what is in store for her now she has married into the extended family of millionaire heir Alex (Mark O'Brien). They made their fortune from their now-deceased patriarch's board games business, and with that in mind there's a tradition they like to play every time a new addition to the clan arrives, which Grace has no inkling of. Her new husband gives her as close to a fair warning as he can, telling her she can opt out now before the evening gets underway, indeed they could both run away now and he would not be sorry in the slightest, but she wants to be part of them now she has his name...

A sleeper horror hit from 2019, Ready or Not, as the title suggests, centred around a game of hide and seek that did not simply get out of hand in the progress of the night, but had started that way many decades before. This was so high concept as to court vertigo, but the premise was, essentially, Grace is given the chance to play a game, and if that game is hide and seek the family of her new spouse will hunt her down and eventually incapacitate, then sacrifice her to Satan, for that patriarch sold his soul to Old Nick in return for success at the board game company. But this would not be too exciting if the villains - who might not all be villainous - had things their own way before dawn.

Dawn, incidentally, being when the Devil arrives to kill them all - they know this because they have heard it happen to other families who have the same pact. Really this was another variation on that movie equivalent of a theatrical warhorse The Most Dangerous Game, one of the most overused plots of all time, though Ready or Not contrived to generate the kind of blood soaked thrills and spills of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in its victimisation of the heroine, who like Marilyn Burns gets to scream a lot. And like her character, the odds are stacked against her by this murderous brood who have let the playing of games inform their lives just that bit too much - or far too much.

What offered more depth here than a simple runaround with slasher flick trappings was its class warrior sensibility. Grace is clearly from the lower classes, not because she is particularly uncouth or some poverty-porn stereotype, but because she was an orphan whose foster parents were able to give her just enough to get by, but not enough to give her a taste of the good life. The good life is what Alex can supply, yet crucially she has not married him for his wealth, she is truly in love with him and he with her, which adds a dimension to the night that sees him do his best to assist her in her escape, not that it is going to be as easy as that. But Alex's strata of society was depicted as so self-involved and indeed selfish that there was a satisfaction to be gained every time Grace got one over on them.

Not that she has it all her own way, but the victories she scores will chime with anyone who has felt life has placed them in the underdog position. Even more than that, Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy's fast-paced script called into question tradition itself, the idea that just because your mother or father have done something all their lives, doesn't mean it makes sense to carry on when the activity is absurd, insane or plain criminal, another element that resonated with the class system (rather than something you are accustomed to eating at Christmas, for example). If this was somewhat in debt to tradition itself, only a tradition of horror movies that had come before, then what it did with what could have been hackneyed clich├ęs was very impressive, with plenty of atmospheric design and a sense of dark humour that buoyed what could have been pretty grim without it. Ready or Not deserved its success, and its cynical take on marriage may be exaggerated, but you acknowledged a kernel of truth to it. Music by Brian Tyler.

[20th Century Fox's Blu-ray has featurettes, an audio commentary with Weaving and the directors, a gag reel and the trailer as extra features.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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