“Ready or Not,” a new scary movie, follows a simple plan. Our heroine, an orphan, begins the movie by exchanging marriage vows in the garden of her new husband’s family estate. But there is, she learns, another step before she can consider herself one of the family.
Counting servants, there are about a dozen folks in the house as midnight nears. The actual family members (excluding two young male brothers) congregate in the game room. Grace, the bride (played by Hugo Weaving’s niece Samara), first hears a brief version of the family’s history.
Four generations back they secured the help of a benefactor, a rich magician who promised success in the family business (playing card and board game printing). But the bargain was devilish.
Whenever someone marries into the family, the whole lot of them must play a game, selected by luck of the draw. When Hide and Seek comes up, the new member must hide from the other family members who go after him or her with old or ancient weapons.
They must kill the newcomer before dawn. Otherwise they believe they will themselves die from their patron’s curse. Not that the curse has been tested. They have always killed any newby.
Grace’s groom hasn’t told her about this ritual. He has been counting on the odds that Hide and Seek won’t be the midnight game. But that card is chosen, and he is confined to a room where the family believes he’ll be no help to her.
The family members are an odd lot. Ma (Andi McDowell) and Pa at least maintain a little good humor. But they are serious about catching and killing their younger son’s new bride. Auntie seems brutally devoted to the game.
The groom’s brother Dan is sympathetic. He’ll bend the rules to help Grace. But maybe only that. His wife, the mother of their two kids (one of them a danger with a derringer), is a 13 look-alike who will do what she must to protect her offspring.
Then there are the black-clad maids, who look like fugitives from the “Addicted to Love” video, and a butler who plays piano while wearing gloves. And there are the travelers, the coke-snorting daughter and her husband who watches a video on his phone in order to learn how to use a crossbow on Grace.
Alex the groom uses servants’ passageways to find Grace, warn her, and set up a plan for their escape. He also cripples the security system so that the closed circuit TV cameras don’t work and the electronic doors can be unlocked. But by then two of the three maids are dead, shot by mistake, and Grace has armed herself with a huge-bore long-gun. She eavesdrops, standing on the roof under the eaves and then dropping — a white flash in a downstairs window — to the ground.
After a battle with the family’s Lurch, she discovers how they have been disposing of the bodies all these years. There’s a pit in back of the goat barn, and she finds herself in there with a rotting corpse with two arrows in him. This just after one of the boys shoots her in the hand with his pistol.
From then on the movie continues to discover new ways to kill its characters, to informally alter Grace’s bridal dress, and to get her into and out of picturesque danger. A car wreck, decapitation while in a dumbwaiter, and spells said by the family as they gather (hooded) around a large pentagram all figure. Gory incidents occur with increasing frequency as the movie rolls.
The end is a surprise, both because a couple of the characters have their real qualities emerge and because the issue of “satanic magic” plays out in a way viewers won’t have expected. If “Ready or Not” had been a little funnier, it would have been even more successful. And there is, at least, a put-away joke at the very end.