Margot Robbie’s ‘Hide and Seek’ a hellish delight

It looks underlit in many stills, but the sinister aura of the Le Domas mansion is probably my favorite part of Ready or Not. Images courtesy — oh come on, seriously? Images courtesy Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios.

8/10 Sifting through an August overflowing with movies that wouldn’t compete with Disney for the prime summer months, we find another one of the last Fox movies, unceremoniously dumped on a mid-August Wednesday by its new owner, ironically, Disney. The film, Hide and Seek–

Actually it’s not called Hide and Seek, that title was very taken. No fewer than 14 movies are called Hide and Seek, the most famous of which was a 2005 one starring Robert De Niro. It was kind of like Fight Club, but also a slasher? It had nothing to do with hide and seek. No, our feature today instead chose to be the only film called Ready or Not–

Actually no, this is the second American movie in just 10 years called Ready or Not. Anyway, the film stars Margot Robbie as–

Actually no, that’s someone called Samara Weaving. Says here she’s Hugo Weaving’s niece? They’re both Australian, does that count?

Whatever! It’s a great movie.

In Ready or Not, Grace (Samara Weaving) marries her sweetheart Alex (Mark O’Brien) into the Le Domas family dominion. They’re a dominion, they actually call themselves that. Instead of traditional wedding night activities, Grace is obliged to participate in the Le Domas family tradition of playing a game – in this case, hide and seek. She soon discovers that her new in-laws mean to kill her if they find her.

Ready or Not is a delight. The Le Domas’ propriety and horrifying darkness under the surface is reflected in both the film’s horrifying gore and their disgusted-yet-flippant attitude toward it.

Grace shifts from running to fighting almost immediately. Her being game and Ready or Not’s wonderful focus on wardrobe produces this iconic image of function overtaking form, her wedding dress torn for mobility, heels replaced with her skunky sneakers and the whole outfit covered in elephant gun shells.

The entire film takes place in their seemingly endless mansion, which at night is bathed in a sickened golden glow. The costumes, from Grace’s unassuming wedding dress to the family’s average-looking attire, which is contrasted by servants dressed to the nines, are all on point and perfectly compliment the tense social atmosphere of the Le Domas household. As the film moves on, the space fills out with more traditional haunted mansion elements, like a dumbwaiter or a basement full of corpses, revealing the space to be as malevolent as the family it houses and lending credence to the potential that they really did make some kind of unnatural pact.

Ready or Not is about class struggle, particularly the internal struggle that class forces people into. This is expressed most clearly through Alex, his siblings and their spouses – older brother Daniel (Adam Brody), his wife Charity (Elyse Levesque), little sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and her husband Fitch Bradley (Kristian Bruun). Though we spend most of our time locked in a struggle for survival with Grace, Alex and Daniel are arguably the film’s main characters, as they show the most character growth and their choices have the most impact on the plot.

Alex, Daniel and Emilie struggle with the pressures of their wealthy background – Alex has cut his family off until the wedding and intends to do it again after, but Daniel seems resigned to his family’s evil traditions. Charity, by contrast, is desperate to remain in her in-laws’ good graces.

Grace, obviously, is fighting for her life the entire time as her husband’s wealthy family chooses to kill her rather than accept her. She does the Final Girl tradition proud, immediately turning her fear into rage, kicking and screaming mightily to the last.

Emilie, a mother of two, has turned to a drug habit to cope with the inherent pressures of her family, which remains dark even when played for laughs. Fitch Bradley, who takes none of this seriously and cannot handle his crossbow, completes the overt comic relief couple.

The Le Domas family is clearly unprepared either physically or mentally to carry out their hunt, which produces several of the film’s running gags. Emilie and Fitch Bradley cannot handle their weapons, and family members keep accidentally killing their servants, who are portrayed as much more competent.

Ready or Not takes advantage of its broad array of characters to seamlessly blend horror with action and comedy. This is a very different story as far as each character is concerned, and their roughly equal focus allows the levity, violence and darkness to co-exist without taking away from each other. There’s also a degree of comedy inherent in the constant clashes of urgency and temperament.

The film also draws heavily on its overarching metaphors about marriage difficulties. Grace and Alex’s union falls apart in a single night, partially because of hostile in-laws, but more generally because neither party was ready for marriage – at least, not this particular marriage.

As easy as it is to simply bathe in the carnage and action tension of Ready or Not, I wish I understood the principal plot more. Most of the dramatic tension is tied up in heel-turns made by Daniel and Alex, and they don’t have much reason behind either. Also, it’s stated that Daniel drunkenly hits on Grace, but we never see that first hand. I don’t necessarily need more in-law lust, but the way this particular movie plays out, it would add something if Daniel had more explicit feelings toward Grace.

Ready or Not seems to be hopping off recent trend of ubiquitous childhood games being turned into low-budget horror movies – think Ouija and its sequel and Truth or Dare, all of which have similar aesthetics, similar budgets and lack of name personnel and a similar target audience of college and late high school students. Ready or Not blows most of those movies right out of the water on merit. Hasbro had a hand in the Ouija movies, but there doesn’t seem to be a mastermind profiting off of this trend. All of these movies are from different studios. It seems more like a case of convergent evolution.

Despite the release of 15 new movies in the past three weeks, the current slate of films is so weak that both Spider-Man: Far From Home and Midsommar are rolling back into theaters this Labor Day to take advantage. If you want to see something new over the long weekend, Ready or Not is a terrific ticket. 

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter and Instagram and support it on Patreon. You can reach me at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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