Ready or Not

Ready or Not ★★★½

Something I love about cinema is how there are times where you can almost carbon date what was happening in the culture through genre trends. Had The Hunt's release not been canceled this year, it, Satanic Panic, and Ready or Not (maybe even a little of Knives Out, too) all allegorize working class America's growing hostility towards the upper class through various updatings of The Most Dangerous Game. For a second full-length feature from two former YouTubers, Ready or Not not only provides the requisite pleasures of that subgenre, but, at times, enlivens them through some unexpected dark humor and human characterizations. As every critic has been pointing out, Samara Weaving elevates the lead role far beyond the flat Final Girl stereotype that Grace is on the page. Some of the guttural noises that come out of her in this film are so unexpectedly feral that they add an entire new dimension to her anger, fear, and desperation. Juxtaposed against that animalistic color to her character are beats of flustered frustration and self-awareness that humanize her beyond the basic sympathy generated by the premise.

Rather than be satisfied with a simple "fuck the rich" thematic backbone (though, that's in here, too), Ready or Not focuses in on the toxicity behind systems of tradition. One rather funny scene involves the Le Domas family arguing about which aspects of their deadly ritual need to be followed. Unsurprisingly, they are open to ignoring the rules that stymie their advantage. For me, this scene and a handful of others skewer how systems of wealth and power are often maintained under the facade of tradition; "America used to be great, so let's return to the same traditions that made it great!" Of course, just like the Le Domas dominion, the reality is that those in power are always more than happy to stray from tradition as long as it benefits them. If anything, Ready or Not gets a lot of laughs and gore out of mocking that kind of self-serving hypocrisy, while providing an excellent vehicle for Weaving to let loose.

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