The world’s on fire, and people are angry. That’s putting it mildly, but nevertheless, the collective mindset of the current generations is one of righteous fury. Every once in a while in these times of crisis there comes a movie or two that channels that rage towards the ones responsible for all the chaos and suffering – obscenely wealthy people. Ready or Not is exactly the form of escapism that people desperately need right now, presented in a very fun way.
Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying into the Le Domas family, a dynasty (or dominion, as they like to be called) that made its vast fortune from games. Grace is obviously intimidated by the less than friendly in-laws, especially since she doesn’t come from a notable family herself. Her groom, Alex (Mark O’Brien), is also visibly uncomfortable and wracked with nerves over a family secret that he’s neglected to tell his bride about. The night of the wedding, the family has a tradition where they all play a game. The game of the evening ends up being hide and seek, but Grace quickly learns that in this particular game, you really don’t ever want to be caught.
Ready or Not is certainly aimed at horror fans, but it’s not particularly scary, nor is it meant to be. There isn’t much in the way of scary imagery or jump scares; it’s more of a violent gore fest (but never too over the top) that falls in line more with slasher films. But this time, the one racking up the body count is the hero, Grace herself. Samara Weaving turns in a star-making performance, balancing a good-humored, fun-loving woman at the start who’s suddenly thrust into a horrifying situation, where she goes through cycles of terror that morph into total, screaming rage. Clad in a dirty, torn wedding gown, sneakers, and whatever weapon she can get her hands on, Grace is an instant addition the roster of the best women of horror, earning her spot through sheer force of will.
The film has a real sense of lightness and fun about it that’s placed on top of all the blood and guts – this is supposed to just be a game, after all. A great mixture of the violence and humor, such as a drug-addled Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) continuously killing the wrong people by mistake, is what makes Ready or Not such a good time. A sleek hour and a half runtime keeps the movie streamlined and fast moving before it ever gets the chance to run its premise thin, and it culminates in an ending that’s just as hilarious as it is gruesome.
The downside to it all is that it’s very surface level. There’s not much to Ready or Not’s message beyond “rich people bad”. While I don’t doubt that some of the wealthy elite literally hunt people for sport, the film could’ve used some real-world parallels to really drive home the point it wants to make. The things that make real rich people bad are numerous, but the movie never broaches these subjects. Simple and playful escapism, which is all this movie attempts to be, is fine and good, but a little more meat on its bones would’ve been appreciated.
The comparison I kept making was between this film and the recent Happy Death Day series; two horror flicks that feature notable performances from their blonde-haired leads, and aim for a more lighthearted, slasher feel. Jessica Rothe’s Tree Gelbman, however, is a notably superior protagonist, if only because her film provides her with a fully realized character arc. Tree goes from a selfish and ill-tempered narcissist into a more warm and emotionally available person, but Ready or Not’s Grace, despite a terrific performance from Weaving, doesn’t appear to change much at all in her film. Grace becoming nothing short of a warrior is certainly exciting, but we don’t know enough about who she was before this to tell if this is a change or just who she was deep down to start with. Either way, her arc, like the film’s overall handling of its bigger themes, leaves a bit to be desired.
That said, Ready or Not isn’t pretending to be anything deeper than what you’re being presented with. It’s a short and satisfying time at the movies, and even though its grasp of the collective anger people are currently feeling is relatively weak, it still manages to alleviate some of the pent-up rage that those people have. It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel or subvert any kind of genre expectations, but it’s still a hell of a gory and entertaining ride.
3.5 / 5 Stars