Film: Ready or Not

The horror genre seems to be going through a renaissance lately, or maybe it just pushes my buttons more often as it entertainingly leverages its familiar tropes against a zeitgeist seething with all-too-real horrors. Add Ready or Not (2019) to the genre’s list of recent politically charged successes; it’s an unmitigated, scathing takedown of the sociopathic pursuit of wealth by the upper class. Throw The Cabin in the Woods, Get Out, The Most Dangerous Game, and The Addams Family into a blender and you’ll get the gist, which would have been enough to make it extremely fun. An awardworthy lead performance and a timely theme, however, push it over the top.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is about to get married to Alex (Mark O’Brien), the wayward son of the wealthy Le Domas family. The Le Domases built their financial empire, which dates back to the Civil War, in the gaming and sports industries. Alex clearly has mixed feelings about his family, and seems nervous about inviting Grace into their dysfunctional, toxic company. But Grace is committed to Alex, and goes through with the marriage, even agreeing to engage in an odd family tradition on her wedding night—a midnight gaming session. All she has to do is draw a card from a deck and play the resulting game. But there’s a wrinkle to this ritual the Le Domases don’t tell her about, and it’s about to turn Grace’s honeymoon night into a fight for survival.

This is one of those movies where the trailer pretty much tells the whole story, but even having seen it didn’t ruin it for me. Horror, especially horror with a dark comedy angle, doesn’t need surprise as much as it needs execution, and Ready or Not has that in spades. I did struggle somewhat with the tone, at times. The black comic banter of the awful Le Domas family sometimes clashes with the super-serious soundtrack. Weaving’s desperately panicked performance is so distressing it’s occasionally difficult to remember we needn’t take the film all that seriously. But in the end, it’s Weaving’s performance that pushes this one to the next level in its clever meta-commentary, which unforgivingly ridicules the in-the-bubble conditioning of the chronically privileged while Grace desperately endures the heartless, callous cruelty that privilege can exact on its victims. Terrific comic acting helps the unsettling dissonance of the scenario, as Adam Brody, Kristian Bruun, Henry Czerny, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, Andie MacDowell, and Melanie Scrofano make for an all-too-believable tribe of ghastly rich assholes. But through it all, Weaving carries the day, both in her shocked, panicky reactions and her resourceful, stunned resistance. Ready or Not doesn’t pull its punches or even attempt subtlety, but it’s gloriously committed to its angry mission and carries it out with aplomb.

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