Ready or Not

Ready or Not ★★★★

Predictable meta-horror, and I don't mean that as a slight in any way. The second this starts, you know how it's going to go, but it hits all the right beats - even the beats to make you think it's not going to hit the beats - in way that you can't help but appreciate. It helps that the 'meta' elements aren't as in you face as say Cabin in the Woods, and it keeps it thought-provoking without being obnoxious.

There's a lot of depth here, too, and that's where it gets most of its mileage. The socio-political commentary isn't greatly original, but it is something rarely expressed in film, and I'm down for that. If ever there was a horror film this year that will be discussed in future scholarly film journals, this would be it. In that sense, it will probably be overhyped - because again, even though it's deep, it's not that deep - but it deserves that status more than something like Us.

Besides, it's not like this is free from problems, the worst of which is its large cast. The best characters/performances get lost in the shuffle, replaced by meaningless comic relief. It's not like this is 'wrong,' but it definitely feels like a missed opportunity. MacDowell in particular is underutilized, and despite the fact that she kills it every second she's on screen, she still has only a couple of scenes, and that's blasphemy. On the other hand, though, Brody makes the most of his screentime, and really convinced me that he might actually have a second chance at stardom. (Watching this performance, it's no surprise that his character was always the standout from The O.C.) While the rest of the cast is good, no one else is really great, and when the room is already crowded, a bunch of solid 7s doesn't warrant the excess.

The bigger problem, though, is that this has the same faultline as all Revenge Films: the Final Girl is ultimately nothing more than a blood-soaked, painting 'Cool Girl' who calls her killers a "bitch" a million times. You know it's coming the second this film starts, but I just wish it went a little deeper. This is exactly why no Revenge film has really ever caught critical attention, because, well, they're all the same trite 'male directors attempt feminism' ploys. The reason it's a problem in Ready or Not is because you know the filmmakers know better. Mind you, it's not the worst offense this movie could make, but it is a quiet disappointment.

Overall, though, this is a really strong piece of entertainment. They just don't make horror movies like this any more. I feel like this is a dying sub-subgenre of horror - the kind released in late summer/early fall, that caters to every middle-schooler/early high schooler going to the movies with their friends, the type that peaked right before the Recession in the late 2000s. I'm not entirely sure how well Ready or Not is doing, but based on its NYC marketing...it feels like it's tanking. That's unfortunate to me, because this is the exact type of fun-but-smart horror film that I used to eat up as a teen. It's the type of movie I wish streaming services made, because it's the type of movie teens streaming movies want to see. No one gives a fuck about the quasi-Lifetime fodder. What we need is more of this. Not like I know how to get more of this, but I definitely think we should. It's entertaining as hell, despite it's flaws, which are both inherent and a fault of playing it too safe. But in the end, it's way smarter than a lot of the overhyped self-indulgent, pretentious , mainstream-arthouse trash that's been hyped up throughout 2019, and for that reason alone, I recommend this to everyone. But maybe wait for streaming...we need a new cult horror classic, anyway.

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