Alex and Grace are getting married! Well, Alex (Mark O’Brien) and Grace (Samara Weaving) think it’s exclamation point worthy anyway. Well, Grace does. Well, Alex and Grace are getting married. How’s that? They’re happy, they’re in love. Grace has been alone so much of her life, she’s ultra excited to be getting a family, even if Alex’s family is quite intimidating. They’re wealthy, they’re snooty, and they’re not all approving. Alex isn’t exactly approving of them either, and he’s mostly stayed away. He would have been happier to stay away, and remain unmarried, but Grace insisted, and he complied. So now they’re at the family estate, being treated to a beautiful wedding, even if most of the relatives glower at Grace like she’s a gold digging bitch. Which she isn’t, just for the record, but it isn’t exactly unprecedented. Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody) is married to a woman who quite openly married for money. Alex’s father Tony (Henry Czerny) is visibly disapproving of Grace, but aunt Helene (now played by Nicky Guadagni) even more so. Only Alex’s mother Becky (Andie MacDowell) is at all welcoming, reminding her that only Alex’s opinion matters.
Later that night, Grace and Alex have retired for the evening and are about to do that things couples tend to do on their wedding night but are interrupted by Helene, who reminds Alex that as per tradition with every new addition to the Le Domas family, Grace has to join the family for a game at midnight. The whole family gathers around a table while Tony explains that this tradition was started by his great grandfather Victor, who made a deal with a mysterious benefactor who granted Victor and his future generations their wealth, and in exchange left a special box, their price to pay. The family passes Grace the box to draw a card from it, a game that they must play. She draws hide and seek.
To win, Grace must stay hidden until dawn. In fact, to survive, she must stay hidden until dawn, though she doesn’t know this yet. As she goes to hide, the family arms themselves with guns, ax and crossbow. The Le Domases believe they need to hunt Grace and kill her before dawn, or else they themselves will die. Alex finally confesses the truth, admitting he didn’t tell her about this because he feared that she would leave him, but he promises to find a way to get her out safely. Alex shouldn’t make promises he can’t keep. And he probably shouldn’t keep secrets that involve murder.
Anyway, the movie is a straight-up game of hide and seek where the consequences are deadly. It’s gripping and terrifying, and reminded me of childhood games played in the woods, after dark, where the consequences were not murdery whatsoever, but sure felt like it as I hid, heart pounding, fearing that I’d be discovered, and fearing that I wouldn’t.
Samara Weaving is a delight to watch, from beautiful bride to deeply enraged, she goes from one extreme to the other over the course of a single night, and does it convincingly and with gleeful abandon. I struggle with scary movies as you may know, but found this one to be good fun. It’s macabre, and darkly funny. Not many directors manage this careful balance in tone but Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett don’t just get away with it, they revel in it, and it works. We were late to the party, had heard plenty of good things, but were still surprised by how fun it was to watch, how entertaining, and what a subversive little twist on the genre it offered. If you haven’t seen it yet yourself, you might think about correcting that.