More noise than signal

Ready or Not

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Remember back when some studio executive had a particularly ketamine-fuelled night out and woke up to find they’d commissioned a film based on the board game Battleship? Seemed like an awful idea, but of course the remarkable commercial and critical success that it presumably must have had opened up a valuable new market for Hollywood to mine: literally anything. Anything someone, somewhere might remember, in some fashion. Monopoly? Sure. Tetris, apparently, although I’m not sure if that was supposed to be a joke or not. Anyway, the point I’m skirting around is that this is a movie adaptation of Hide and Seek, which sounds silly, but so did Game Night, and it turned out to be great. Let’s see if this shares its quality, or Battleship‘s.

Actually, the set-up is perhaps unsurprisingly straightforward. Samara Weaving’s Grace has just married into the rich board game dynasty of the Le Domas family, specifically scion Alex, played by Mark O’Brien. This was in spite of Alex’s warning that his family is weird. Not just conventionally rich person weird, although there’s plenty of that. But more specifically, they believe their success is due to an old tradition, a pact, if you will, where any new addition to the family must play a game, randomly selected by a mysterious antique box, on midnight of the wedding. Something harmless, like chess, maybe. Unfortunately for Grace, she draws Hide and Seek.

The Dumas family have a few house rules for this game, specifically locking all of the doors and windows of that house and hunting and killing the hidee, under non-specific threat of terrible vengeance for breaking with tradition. There’s no crazy like rich person crazy. So off Grace goes trying to hide, dodge and avoid the Dumas clan and their selection of weaponry. Said family include Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni, John Ralston, alongside a handful of others who, McDowell excepted, I don’t think I could have picked any of them out of a line-up, but handle their roles well, with the complete lack of subtlety that something like this demands.

To my surprise, I rather enjoyed this. It’s almost relentlessly paced, and you will never be all that far away from something delightful happening, like someone being grotesquely shot with a crossbow bolt, or an annoying wee kid getting their coupon stamped. There’s a certain subset of people who will agree that’s delightful, admittedly. In terms of content and tone, it’s aiming at something like The Cabin in the Woods (although this is better), or The Evil Dead 2 (although this is not as good, but really, what else is?). It has a comedy / action / horror vibe that’s a right old laugh and no mistake guv’nor, assuming you’re on the same wavelength.

If you’re looking at this in a film critic-y kind of way, there’s plenty of points that you could bring up to deduct your metatomato points from – the characters are broadly and shallowly drawn, and there’s no real attempt at meaning, or any deep thoughts on the human condition. However I don’t think that’s a particularly relevant or helpful way to look at something like this. It’s taking a silly premise, and simply having an inordinate amount of fun with it. Trash, but enjoyable trash.

Samara Weaving is excellent, hugely relatable and sympathetic at the outset, and all the more sympathetic by the end of things. I felt a little skeeved out by a few moments that were maybe going a little too far into body horror / torture porn territory, which stylistically felt like scenes left over from a much earlier draft that hadn’t decided to embrace the comedy side of things so firmly.

However, that’s not a strong enough concern to diminish my overall opinion on it. It’s not a classic, and I suspect I’ll never think of it again after editing this podcast, but it’s a highly entertaining hour and a half that’s frequently rather funny indeed, assuming of course your humour skews that way. Can’t say much more about it than that.