Review: Ready or Not

You know, hide-and-seek was my favorite game growing up. I was never fast enough to be good at tag, clever enough to be good at board games or cards, dexterous enough to play hopscotch, or patient enough to tolerate playing house. Hide and seek, though? Especially in my house, which has a dark, cramped, under-the-stairs closet in the basement, along with plenty of other ideal spots? And all you have to do is sit there and wait for people to find you? Yup, that’s my scene. It was thankfully never taken to the extreme that Ready or Not went to, though. I’d probably be long dead if that had happened.

Ready or Not follows newly-wed Grace’s dream life as it sharply veers into a nightmare, in which her in-laws try to hunt and kill her after her wedding. The film basically takes the core concepts of Meet The Parents and a not-racially-conscious Get Out, smashes them together, and spices them up with hide-and-seek, blunt satire of rich people, and copious amounts of blood. It’s not reinventing the horror comedy genre, but it also doesn’t need to, because it makes up for its lack of originality by navigating that difficult line with ease. The film has genuinely funny dialogue and gleefully dark comedic moments, accomplished via an emphasis on the sheer incompetence of the hunters. Every actor gives it their all, especially Melanie Scrofano as sister-in-law Emille, who was downright hilarious. For someone who plays a skillful demon hunter in Wynonna Earp, she really doesn’t know how to handle a gun here.

The best part of the film, though, was Samara Weaving’s performance as Grace. She had previously impressed me in Netflix’s The Babysitter (mostly because she was the only truly entertaining part of that film), but Ready or Not proves she has immense potential as a leading woman. Weaving brings a real humanity to an otherwise simple character, and you really sympathize with her as her dreams of finally joining a family (after an unstable life of being in foster care) get crushed. I also appreciated how she doesn’t suddenly becomes competent with weapons nor adopt a hard-core persona once her life is threatened, like she may have had in other films. If anything, she grows less competent as the story unfolds. She constantly makes irrational decisions because of how disorienting and terrifying her situation is, and never uses an official weapon once. She still fights back, of course, but not to the point where it’s unbelievable. It’s an oddly realistic aspect of a film about murderous hide-and-seek, but it did make me genuinely fear for Grace’s life throughout, so it’s definitely welcome.

Another wonderful aspect of the film was the production design. Every costume was gorgeous, the makeup was perfect, and the house the film takes place in was meticulously constructed. The lighting also had a stark, somewhat sepia tone, giving the environment a much darker, more stylized, and creepier feel than normal film lighting typically affords. It feels like you’re witnessing an old photograph come to life, one that’s faded and yellowed but still accurately depicts its subjects. Grace’s dress is also wonderfully designed, both in that it’s extremely pretty and how it practically has its own character arc throughout the film. White is a classic symbol of purity in art, so watching her dress get slathered in dirt and blood is a fitting if predictable parallel to what Grace is forced to go through.

Speaking of characters being forced to go through things, the film unfortunately has some script problems. The portion before the film goes full death game is somewhat slow, and Grace’s husband Alex is characterized with a great deal of inconsistency. His loyalty is torn between his family and his wife throughout the film, which makes sense, but his actions later on don’t feel nearly as earned as they could've. They seemed more rooted in what the film was telling us about his character than what Mark O’Brien’s performance and dialogue were portraying. More time needed to be dedicated to developing his character and showing his backstory to make his character work, frankly. This discrepancy made the finale have less punch, even though it was generally satisfying otherwise.

Thematically, Ready or Not also has a surprising amount of things to say, claiming that tradition shouldn’t be recognized or idealized if it involves making other, more unlucky people suffer for selfish reasons. It aims this idea at the rich and powerful while also infantilizing them in various ways, making them out to be incompetent, pathetic, awful people who only care about maintaining their wealth, no matter the cost. The only perpetrators of violence are the rich, and the victims of violence are Grace, a middle-class girl raised in foster care, the butler, and the three maids. The fact that they’re all hurt because of the rich’s incompetence and dogged yield to tradition makes the proceedings more infuriating than funny, especially because the victims are all seen as replaceable - the maids are barely characterized, the butler is loyal to the family to a fault, and Alex could just find another wife if Grace dies. Essentially, the film condemns those who view human life as an expendable means to an end, which can be applied to a broad range of exploitative practices in our society.

This specific thematic thread, among the many other positive qualities, is what really makes Ready or Not worth watching. It may have a familiar story, simple characters, and some script writing issues, but it gets its point across and has fun along the way. At the very least, I think most people can find something to appreciate about it.