Ready or Not
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Starring: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Nicky Guadagni, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell
Rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout and some drug use
1 hr. 35 min.

It’s past Labor Day, kids are back in school, stores are loaded with skeletons, witches, cobwebs and bags of fun-sized candy bars. Halloween’s coming, Ready or Not. By the merest of coincidences, that’s also the name of this spare horror/dark comedy flick with influences that seem to range anywhere from Rosemary’s Baby to an old episode of Gilligan’s Island. To a lesser extent, there may be nods to a vintage Twilight Zone tale. Though gory, the laughs are abundant enough to make the qualification and still render the product not for the faint of heart.

To call Ready or Not fun, however, is to emphasize what co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett intended, I believe, with a script by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy (Skinwalkers). The point being that a thriller need not be so chilling as to leave the theater disturbed. This film is pre-Halloween, foul-mouthed fun, poking holes in the facade of stuffy, puffy money bags, with a gothic estate, austere household staff, things that go bump in the night and a Faustian bargain bobbing on the backwash of their troubled waters.

Actress Samara Weaving is a find, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to compare her to Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron in their nascent years. She plays Grace, the bride about to marry into the ridiculously loaded Le Domas clan. They’re board game scions, with a long deceased benefactor named Le Baim. Once considered nouveau riche, The Le Domases are now old money, with considerably less than noblesse oblige tendencies. 

Minutes before their nuptials at the family manse, the groom, Alex (Mark O’Brien), asks Grace if she’s sure she wants to go through with the wedding. The salty-tongued bride, seeing the trappings of wealth all around her, assures him that after their relatively short time together (what she calls, “Our 18-month bone-a-thon”), she’s ready. This, despite the foreboding stares she’s getting from Alex’s Aunt Helene (a devilishly good Nicky Guadagni), who looks like a withered Billy Idol or a wizened Maleficent. The ceremony proceeds.

Other members of this wacky family in possession of all this money and mystery are Alex’s mother, Becky (Andie MacDowell, cultivating the slightest of Morticia Addams vibes; Thurston Howell III-like father Tony (Henry Czerny); brother Daniel (Adam Brody); his wife, Charity (Elyse Levesque); their inept, Xanax-popping sister Emilie and her preening husband, Fitch Bradley. Following the wedding, the family gathers and reveals to the bride that she must participate in a game to be initiated into the fold. Family tradition. It could be checkers, could be Old Maid, depending on the card she chooses. Naturally, the game turns out to be hide and seek, and Grace has to duck out of sight until dawn. What shocks her to her carefully pedicured toes is that “seek” means “hunt.”

The clan members arm themselves with weapons that range from a crossbow (Fitch whines about that) to a battle axe. (Aunt Helene couldn’t have picked a more appropriate bludgeon.) Even the maids and the Tchaikovsky-loving man-servant Stevens (John Ralston) are after her. Grace, running for her life, proves as nimble at getting away as she is with well-timed obscenities. 

Filmed with heaping helpings of viscera and tongue firmly in cheek (though, thankfully, still attached), there was probably room for more in this movie. But why quibble? When there’s a gimlet eye focused on the filthy rich, the biliously bourgeoise and what they’ll do to stay that way? Go ahead, have some laughs, and whet your appetite for the goblin-filled season to come. It’s almost here . . . Ready or Not.