Ghostbusters. Shaun of the Dead. This Is the End. Horror-comedy is admittedly a tricky genre to get right successfully, but when a movie does it well it can become an overnight cult classic, rewatched ad nauseum for decades in college dorm rooms and during Halloween living-room film fests. Unfortunately, I can’t see Fox Searchlight’s new feature Ready or Not achieving anywhere near that kind of legacy, as it manages to be both painfully unfunny and bereft of any real scares.

For a movie like this to work, it needs to establish its own believable universe and then allow the laughs to come from its characters reactions to the horrors that surround them. Ready or Not side-steps both of those rules and tries in vain to force-feed its audience an already over-the-top premise by drowning it in endless excess.

Ready or Not stars Margot Robbie doppelganger Samara Weaving (niece of actor Hugo Weaving so far best known for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as a newlywed named Grace who just unknowingly married into a family of Satan-worshipping board game heirs– yes, you read that right. The Le Domas clan, led by Henry Czerny (Mission: Impossible) as the unflappable patriarch and Andie MacDowall (Groundhog Day) slumming it as his venomous wife, is plagued by a century-old curse that forces them to sacrifice certain unlucky new additions or pay an ominous price.

Right off the bat, it makes absolutely zero sense how readily each family member takes up weapons to track down Grace and kill her before sunrise, despite the fact that the last time this happened was thirty years prior. None of the characters are likeable, and in a way the movie is designed as such, but it doesn’t give us a reason to root for Grace as a protagonist either, except for the fact that she’s being hunted. It’s established that she grew up poor and is marrying young Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien of Halt and Catch Fire) for love and not his money, but the film’s hypocritical recurring “rich people are evil” theme isn’t quite enough to make her an appealing audience surrogate.

Rounding out the cast are Adam Brody (The O.C.) as Alex’s alcoholic older brother, Megan Scrofano (Saw IV) as his clumsy, inept sister, Nicky Guadagni (Cube) as the cartoonishly menacing Aunt Helene, and John Ralston (Living in You Car) as the classical-music-loving butler, who is given no good reason whatsoever to play along with the family’s deadly game of hide-and-seek but does so anyway at the very real risk of his own life and limb. Maybe try not to think about it too much and you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

Screenwriters Guy Busick (Urge) and Ryan Murphy (no, not American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy– though that wouldn’t have surprised me– but a new Ryan Murphy) approach the material as though they’re adolescents who still think swearing is the most hilarious thing a character can do. I’m not kidding; about half of the “punchlines” in this movie are just someone dropping an f-bomb as though that alone counts as a joke. And the rest of the dialogue throughout is riddled with the constant, eye-rolling overuse of curses, almost as if the studio made the filmmakers include as many as possible just to ensure Ready or Not’s hard-R rating.

Grace spends much of the 95-minute running time panicking her way around the palatial, labyrinthine Le Domas estate, either being attacked by the various family members or attacking them after she gets clued into what’s going on, and I’ll give the production and costume designers credit for gradually spattering her wedding dress in gore to the point where it goes from pure white to deep red by the final credits. I couldn’t find much else to like in Ready or Not, but at the very least I will say that the movie’s bloodbath of an ending will mostly satisfy those, like me, who simply wanted everyone to be put out of their misery.

Ready or Not is a deeply unpleasant, almost torturous experience, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over– and that’s coming from someone who saw and enjoyed Midsommar. This is a comedy aimed at audiences without a sense of humor and a horror film for those entertained by violence for violence’s sake alone. It fails at its laughably meager goals and I can’t recommend it.

Grade: ½ out of 5 goat carcasses.

 
 

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