Grace is getting married. It’s a big step, but she’s excited … with just a touch of nervousness.
Those jangled nerves come, of course, from the fact that her beau’s family is so incredibly wealthy. Old money has a way of making people look down their noses at others who don’t have it. And Grace can feel members of the Le Domas family evaluating her and whispering about her less-monied, foster-family-hopping background. They clearly think she’s nothing more than a pretty blonde gold digger.
Grace might think the same thing in their shoes.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, she won’t hate suddenly having money for the first time in her life. But she loves Alex De Lomas dearly. And she’s looking forward to the prospect of being part of his solid, tightly woven family.
What Grace doesn’t realize, however, is that the Le Domas clan has a secret, too. It’s a tradition, of sorts. No, an obsession is more like it. The Le Domases like to play games. They made their family fortune selling everything from card games and board games to owning professional sports teams. And their traditional ritual is to bring out a certain ancient box after any family member’s nuptials to play a game together
The whole family, young and old, gathers and participates. It could be checkers or tic-tac-toe or Monopoly. It could be any game at all. The new family member simply listens to a crazy yarn about a magical device and an ancient vow, pulls a card from the carved and filigreed box, then plays the game written on the card.
But woe to the bride or groom who pulls the card for the game hide-and-seek. It may seem like a silly childlike entertainment to most. But not to the Le Domas family. That card is rarely pulled; but when it is, a store of old weapons is opened and passed out, one to each member.
The Le Domases, you see, are serious about hide-and-seek.
Grace thinks the whole thing is funny when she actually pulls that card and has to head out into the big house to find some quiet corner to hide.
She doesn’t laugh for long.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]
Grace sincerely loves Alex and earnestly wants to be part of an intact family for the first time in her life. And Alex’ mom passionately declares the family’s desire for Alex, their estranged son, to return to the fold. (Those positive feelings and desires head south pretty quickly, however, once the dead start hitting the floor and people get chopped into pieces.)
The Le Domas family’s game-fixated actions are all based on an old pact that a past family patriarch made with a mysterious man named Le Bail. Alex’s father, Tony, tells Grace a story that involved an ancient magical box and a wager made for a great deal of money.
As the movie proceeds, it becomes clear that Le Bail was either a demonic entity or perhaps the Devil himself. (We see his ghostly image momentarily materialize in an empty chair.) In fact, part of the pact involves catching a victim in a game of hide-and-seek, then sacrificing that person in a demonic ritual. The family plays out this ritual in black hooded cloaks, crying out “Hail Satan” and chanting verses in Latin and English. “We renew our pledge with an offering of flesh and blood,” Tony calls out while raising a large knife.
Later in the film, a deadly side of the family’s dark pact becomes very physically evident.
Grace and Alex talk privately and crudely about their quick, steamy courtship. After their wedding, Grace pushes Alex onto their bed and proceeds to start fumbling with his pants while straddling him. But the pair is pulled away from their passionate kissing by a relative who walks in.
Grace mentions that Alex’s generally inebriated brother, Daniel, had made several passes at her.
Grace is essentially tortured throughout the film. She’s chased and battered by a variety of men and women, nearly run over by a speeding car, knocked out cold with the butt of a rifle and sent tumbling into a pit filled with rotting human and animal corpses. She’s shot through the hand and then has to jam that wounded mitt down on a large nail in order to keep from falling from a height. She is shot with a tranquilizer dart, stabbed in the shoulder, and has to slowly rip her own stomach and back open on protruding shards of metal while trying to squeeze through a narrow passage. Grace is also tied to a table and nearly slain as a living sacrifice.
Quite a bit of this horror flick’s bloody, gurgling, death-dealing is also played for grim laughs. One of the relatives, a woman named Emilie, is not cut out for the “art” of murder. So she accidentally ends up killing several people in the Le Domas mansion. She gruesomely shoots one woman in the face, and she launches a crossbow bolt through the mouth of another. This second woman gurgles and moans to the point where an elderly aunt is driven to chop off her head with an ax (offscreen). Someone later picks up the impaled noggin to toss it into a carrion pit where we see another dismembered dead.
In addition, someone is hit in the face with a teapot full of boiling water; one character is shot in the throat; a young boy is knocked out cold by a punch to the face; a guy is choked to unconsciousness; several others are strangled; a car crashes and flips (killing one passenger); and several people are bashed and bloodied with heavy objects. Several people explode in grisly eruptions of gore and guts. And the camera dutifully documents all the graphic and gory carnage.
More than 60 f-words and 30 s-words join uses of “a–,” “a–hole,” “h—” and “b–ch.” God’s and Jesus’ names are misused a total of 10 times (with God being combined with “d–n” in four of those). Someone makes an offensive hand gesture.
Grace, Alex and Alex’s mom (Becky) all smoke cigarettes. (Grace and Becky do so repeatedly.) The entire Le Domas family drinks glasses of champagne. And Daniel generally has a glass or bottle of booze in his hand any given moment. He mentions being drunk at one point.
Emilie is a nervous sort who snorts cocaine and takes prescription drugs to “calm” herself. At one point, Daniel puts some kind of drug into a sacrificial drink that the family members all share, causing them to vomit up the blood-like liquid.
People vomit repeatedly. Snarky jokes abound about killing people and animals for the sake of the family.
Ready or Not is a deranged black comedy that wears its wild-eyed craziness proudly. And the story is set up with a cinematic glossiness, an old-school gleam that matches the well-polished woods and marble of its mansion setting. Star Samara Weaving certainly comes through in her young-bride-turned-terrified-scrapper role with movie star charisma to spare.
Some may squint their eyes and somehow say that this is a quirky little film about female empowerment, or a smirking comedic slap at the uber-wealthy. But both assessments are a huge stretch given its grotesque violence and disturbing spiritual content.
Sure, the unsuspecting bride here beats the baddies at their own game. But the camera watches closely as she gets ripped, torn, stabbed and shot, then writhes in pain in a demonic ritual praising Satan. People are shot in the face and impaled with crossbow bolts. A dying woman is beheaded, corpses are tossed, vomit is spewed, children are pummeled and gore splashes about as it would in a warehouse packed with thin-skinned blood balloons. And all the while, we viewers have to endure a pummeling torrent of profanity.
Suffice it to say this is a wedding, and a movie, you won’t want to RSVP for.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.