Who’s up for some literal class war? Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s pitch-black horror comedy wears its politics on its sleeve, and is mostly the better for it.
Ready or Not sets its dissection of family dynamics in the context of an eat-the-rich free-for-all. The symbolism is laid on thick: newlywed Grace’s (an impeccable Samara Weaving) humble origins are in stark contrast to her husband’s (Mark O’Brien), as the family’s opulent gothic mansion becomes a battleground. And it’s all here: parental favouritism, prodigal sons, at least one random oaf who seemed to blunder into the family by marriage. The film isn’t particularly great with women; Grace aside, they’re manipulative bitches, screw-ups, or simply decoration to be hastily dispatched in a rather gross running joke. But what it lacks in subtlety (“the rich really are different”), it mostly makes up for in gleeful dark humour, genuine tension and at least one surprising narrative turn.
It also succeeds in being deliberately subversive where others might have failed. Perhaps this is because no one is cast as a total innocent; no matter what the provocation, everyone is shown to be capable of extraordinary violence – even children aren’t spared that lens. The toxicity of traditional roles and the arrogance of privilege are revealed and lampooned again and again, particularly through Adam Brody’s ever-so-slightly sympathetic Daniel, who suggests the key to salvation might just be self-reflection.
Ready or Not takes great pleasure in setting up and paying off obvious gags and gore, then switching things up with a sharp take that keeps things creepy and intelligent throughout. Like a competitive sibling, you’re never entirely sure when it’s going to allow a moment of tenderness, or pull its most vicious card. And that makes it a bit of a winner.
CAST: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny
DIRECTORS: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
WRITERS: Guy Busick, R. Christopher Murphy
SYNOPSIS: Newlywed Grace (Weaving) is unwittingly drawn into a deadly game of hide and seek on her wedding night, thanks to the mysterious traditions of her new, super-rich in-laws.