Ready or Not (2019)

“The rich really are different.”

Gone are the days when watching a psychotic madman chase victims around with a knife was sufficiently scary.  Modern horror movies now need a hook to attract an audience, before bringing on the mayhem.  Here are some recent examples:

What if you mixed a slasher film with Groundhog’s Day?  (Happy Death Day)

  • What if several people decided to rob a blind shut-in, but that person was ex-military and had excellent hearing?  (Don’t Breathe)
  • What if liberals were more dangerous to black people than conservatives?  (Get Out)
  • What if people wanted to kill you just because?  (The Strangers)
  • What if fate decided to kill you in the most contrived and excruciating way possible?  (Final Destination)
  • What if a bunch of red pajama-wearing crazy people remembered they could only ride the escalators to the surface world to kill people, but not to get a decent meal?  (Us)

(Ok, that last one was a cheap shot.)

Obviously, having a decent hook does not always result in a good horror movie.  Ready or Not does have an excellent hook:  what if the rich were shown to be the ruthless, heartless bastards that they truly are?  The movie does have several horror movie-ish scenes, including one where the heroine must escape a pit of decaying bodies.  But it isn’t scary in the literal sense.  

Ready or Not is very effective as a wild meta commentary on class struggle.  In the film, those who marry into the Le Domas family must select a game to play at midnight on their wedding night.  If the game chosen is harmless, like checkers, all is good.  If the game chosen is something else, well, the newcomer must be sacrificed to the devil.

Grace unfortunately choses Hide and Seek.  Unbeknownst to her, she playfully goes off to hide while the rest of the family arm themselves and hunt her down.  While the action unfolds, we learn that the family aren’t doing this just because they are gleeful psychopaths.  The former patriarch of the Le Domas family made a deal with the devil for their fortune.  If the devil asks them to sacrifice a new family member, and they do not succeed by dawn the following morning, they will all die.  How’s that for an incentive to murder?

With this in mind, the members of the Le Domas family chose their spouses carefully.  They only select people from society that nobody cares about or will miss.  Grace herself was a foster child.  If she is killed, nobody would come looking for her.  During the game, Grace avoids being killed, but several members of the staff are accidentally killed.  Losing good help is worrisome, but the Le Domases can’t cry over spilt milk.  Grace must be killed in order for the family to stay alive and its affluence intact.  The Le Domases are shown carrying out their hunt with gusto.  Maintaining a pact with the devil is one thing.  But enjoying killing an innocent person on their wedding night?  To die for!

The message from this movie is clear:  the rich are not like you or me.  They are more than willing to kill to keep what they have, and will enjoy doing it.  The poor and underprivileged are just unfortunate cannon fodder.  Nobody will miss them when they are gone.

I’m probably making Ready or Not sound heavy-handed and preachy.  While the movie is not subtle, it is well-paced, very funny, has characters that are worth caring about and a certain Looney Tunes appeal to it.  The outcome hinges on two brothers essentially switching sides.  I would probably need to watch the movie again to see if the movie pulled a bait-and-switch with who is presented as the sympathetic brother and who is the “get along to go along” one.  I didn’t find one brother’s switcheroo unconvincing, but it did yield several of the movie’s funniest lines.  The ending of the movie was shocking and hilarious as well.  (I don’t want to spoil everything about the movie, because I’m recommending it!)

Samara Weaving was very engaging as Grace.  She comes off as a punk rock version of Margot Robbie.  If the two of them were ever in the same movie together, I’d have a tough time telling them apart.  Weaving essentially runs the gamut of emotions in the film, as Grace starts out as playful, then desperate, then feral, then nihilistic.  She is the center of the movie and pulls it off well.  Based on her work in this movie, she should have her choice of rolls going forward.

If you’re looking for a horror movie with a good hook that actually works, with several big laughs, check out Ready or Not.

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