I’m truly digging the new trend of social commentary horror films we’ve seen over the last few years. One of this year’s biggest hits, “Us”, was a great horror feature that tackled the issues of racism and societal divide but another Jordan Peele film, “Get Out”, arguably started this modern trend a few years back. Now we have a new black comedy horror feature, “Ready or Not”, that could be easily compared to “Get Out” although instead of taking on the issue of racism, it tackles societies economic divide. But “Ready or Not” is important not just for its social commentary, but also because it’s an R-rated Disney release under their recently acquired Fox banner which has yet to produce a hit for the studio in 2019. Serving as a rare treat of sorts from Disney and looking to continue to trend of more insightful horror films, does “Ready or Not” rise to the occasion? Let’s find out. This is my review of “Ready or Not”.
“Ready or Not” focuses on Grace (Samara Weaving) a young bride on her wedding day who grew up as an orphan and is preparing to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) the heir apparent to the La Domas gaming empire. After the ceremonies, Grace is told she has to partake in a family ritual where she must play a game chosen by a mysterious card-wielding box. When the box reveals her game is hide-and-seek Grace is instructed that to win she must simply stay hidden until dawn. However, Grace soon discovers this is no simple game as the Le Domas family equip themselves with weapons and begin hunting Grace through the family mansion while Alex turns on his family to help his bride survive. Not knowing who to trust and limited on places to disappear before sunrise, Grace races against the clock as the Le Domas family seeks to make her part of a ritual vital to their success and wellbeing.
I know I’ve given a lot of movies perfect scores lately, but man am I having fun at the theater in recent weeks. Horror, in general, has actually produced some awesome films in 2019 with “Us” and “Midsommar” continuing the trend of more intellectual approaches to the genre. “Ready or Not” is thankfully just another awesome addition to that collection providing a hilarious, thrilling and exhilarating cat and mouse game that’s one-part survival horror and one-part examination of class dynamics. Samara Weaving, who made her first impact in 2017 with another comedy-horror picture “The Babysitter” on Netflix, proves she is worthy of her surname (she’s Hugo Weaving’s niece) bringing attitude, poise, and confidence to a badass female role as bride Grace who has to survive a night while her new husbands high-class family tries to sacrifice her to secure their financial future. I mean the symbolism doesn’t get much blunter than that really. High class rich white people try to sacrifice a middle-class-at-best orphan to secure their riches believing they will suffer if they don’t get their way…it’s a pretty fascinating setup. This is where I compare it favorably to “Get Out”. While that film used a similar idea (a black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family) to represent racism, “Ready or Not” takes its bloody and entertaining premise and uses it to represent the separation of class and the willingness of the rich elite to step on the lower class to get ahead.
But it’s not quite as blunt as I make it seem. “Ready or Not” doesn’t straight up tell you what it’s trying to say. It’s surprisingly subtle, allowing you to either enjoy it on the surface as a survival horror narrative filled with tense moments, hilarious and bloody deaths, subversive tendencies and unexpected twists or appreciate it as a more insightful look at society through the eyes of a woman desperate to survive a game she never asked to play. You can either appreciate it for the fun, or for its complexity, but either way the execution is what makes this movie stand out. In almost every aspect directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who worked together previously on “Devil’s Due”) and writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy find the perfect balance providing more than enough horror elements, moments of levity, and symbolism to create a movie that’s both ridiculously entertaining and willing to speak some pretty nasty truths about America’s social structure. I was genuinely surprised by how layered it all was and honestly didn’t go in expected to appreciate it on so many levels.
It is worth mentioning that “Ready or Not” can be criticized for a mild lack of originality. As I said it’s easy to compare it to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” even if the two films tackle different social issues. While the screenplay was reportedly written before “Get Out” was released (production on “Ready or Not” began in 2017) this movie does serve as the first example that an established formula for these social commentary horror features seems to be taking shape. A not-so-innocent but not evil character representing a lower class of citizen has to outrun, outgun, and/or outwit enemies representing a group usually seen as superior in the real world. It’s not a new idea when you strip it down, but it’s what’s done with that idea that makes “Ready or Not” such a great experience. The name itself warns you that, whether you like it or not, it will reveal some interesting aspects of life and social class that might be uncomfortable or controversial. Like its predecessors in this growing subgenre, “Ready or Not” is unafraid to expose the truths of the world and in many ways it’s these truths that serve as the most frightening revelations of the film surpassing the actual horror elements. For example, one of my favorite little details is that one of the wives who married into the family is named Charity and she’s a former lower-class woman who married in for the money, so her name literally represents that she’s surviving on the charity of the Le Domas and their wealth. Little things like that help make “Ready or Not” more than just a simple retread, but an intriguing product all its own trying to say something that the creators felt needed to be said.
I’ve been giving out so many perfect scores in recent weeks it’s getting kind of ridiculous, but each film has earned it and “Ready or Not” is no exception. Combining black comedy with horror thrills and insightful social commentary “Ready or Not” is another fine addition to a horror subgenre that is quickly turning into one of my favorites in all of cinema. It’s a harsh reminder that while big-screen horror scenarios may be fun, sometimes is the horrors of our own society that are the most frightening. Filled with great twists, memorable characters with a capable leading lady in Samara Weaving, and sporting fun writing and direction blatantly meant to subvert viewer expectations around every turn, “Ready or Not” is a delightful and suspenseful genre experience that will have you laughing one minute, cringing the next, and assessing the social construct of society all the way through. It’s a truly fun viewing that may just take you by surprise.