Film_Review_Ready_or_Not_42891

Kristian Bruun, from left, Melanie Scrofano, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny, Nicky Guadagni, Adam Brody and Elyse Levesque in the film “Ready or Not,” about a bride who tries to stay alive until dawn on her wedding day as her in-laws hunt her down and try to kill her. Photo by Eric Zachanowich/Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP

It’s official: Human hunting is the new zombie apocalypse.

Years after the success of “The Hunger Games,” the grim sport is suddenly in vogue. “Ready or Not,” about a rich family that puts a deadly twist on hide and seek, hits theaters this week. An oddly similar film, “The Hunt,” in which liberal elites prey on conservative folk, has been postponed due to political pressure (go figure). And while nobody was looking, Lee Child’s most recent Jack Reacher novel, “Past Tense,” focused on crossbow enthusiasts who pay big money to bag a human.

If the zombie apocalypse reflected our fears of economic collapse, then “The Most Dangerous Game” — the title of a 1924 short story by Richard Connell and a 1932 film that essentially created the genre — might tap into a new set of concerns: Namely, extreme wealth, social immobility and the ultimate devaluation of human capital.

Granted, that’s a lot to lay on “Ready or Not,” which aims only to be a clever little thriller with a nasty sense of humor. It succeeds admirably. The story of a young bride, Grace (an engaging Samara Weaving), who marries Alex Mark O’Brien), the heir to a board-game fortune, is an ultra-gory take on old body-count thrillers like “And Then There Were None.” (Speaking of cultural trends, that genre is back, too: Rian Johnson’s follow-up to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is “Knives Out,” an apparent homage to the Agatha Christie mysteries of the 1970s.)

“Ready or Not” packs a lot into its 95-minute running time. There’s a delightful backstory involving Satan. The Le Domases are a hoot, especially Alex’s drunken brother, Daniel (Adam Brody); the glamorous matriarch, Becky (Andie MacDowell); and the buffoonish playboy Fitch (Kristian Bruun), who happily married into this hideous family. Character actress Nicky Guadagni has great fun playing Aunt Helene, an evil grande dame with raccoon mascara, mile-high hair and a literal battle axe.

Credit for the playful, fast-paced script goes to Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy, while directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett make great use of the mazelike mansion that contains most of the action. Unintentionally, perhaps, “Ready or Not” feels like a horror comedy for the current moment: The story of a little fox who gives the rich hounds a run for their money.


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