‘READY or Not’ is a new black comedy horror film that has basically ensured its longevity by appealing to various facets of the personas of the young people that make up the main audience who will be going to see this film. Decades from now, there might probably be a remake that seeks to dismantle the very things that have made the film so appealing, but that is how art works. Wave after wave of change follows each other, corrupting and disabling certain styles, genres or ideals, only to cycle back to the beginning and rebuild that which was once lost.
However, being present at the beginning of the long life that should be granted to ‘Ready or Not,’ should make it easy to observe the elements within the film that make it so appealing to the modern audience. What is it about this story – where a new bride is thrust into a deadly game of hide and seek with her husband’s family – that speaks to us? Sure, it has tense moments and a heroine we want to root for, but there are certain specific elements and central ideas (such as the dismantling of traditions, an attack on the upper class, and feminism) that enable this film to be able to sink its claws into the modern audience member who is most likely a part of the generation that has a disdain for pointless traditions, is probably not in the upper class, and has engaged with the concerns of the new wave of feminism in a number of ways.
The plot of the film features our heroine, the final girl (a term used to describe the lead female character in a slasher or horror film who survives the onslaught and outwits the killer) is Grace, a beautiful and resourceful young woman who gets married to a handsome and lavishly wealthy man named Alex. On the wedding night, Alex’s odd family engages Grace in an old tradition, where newcomers to the family have to play a game. Grace’s game turns out to be a brutal version of hide and seek, where she is forced to hide until sunrise while every member of her husband’s family tries to kill her, using a wide array of weapons, including everything from a pistol and a crossbow to a rifle and a battle axe. The interesting aspect of the game, besides murder, is the fact that the exact consequences of the family losing to the bride seem to be lost on most of the people involved, the very people perpetuating this traditional violence. The game is a tradition that is important to the family, and one that they all engage in, but not until the very end is any member of the family entirely cognizant of the truth of why they do what they do. It is a reminder of how several families in the world engage in various traditions (albeit, most often ones not involving murder) without ever questioning the source or reasoning behind the tradition, often passing these values and ceremonies down to the new generations. Sometimes, such traditions can be harmful, purposeless, and even fatal. Grace, as a shining example of a modern young woman, rebuffs the family’s attempt at including her in their tradition by attempting to survive the murderous game that they implicate her in. In a way, she might also be regarded as fighting back against the tradition of marriage itself as she has to evade every one of her in-laws who tries to kill her. The bucking of the tradition of marriage itself is bold considering that although that particular institution no longer holds the same weight within the minds of young as it once did, it still remains an important one in modern culture. Therefore, Grace’s journey of survival against her in-laws can definitely be read as an attempt to survive what can be a cruel and foreboding institution, one of marriage, one where, for many people, having to deal with in-laws can often feel like an attempt to defend oneself from people who are out for blood. Grace fights back not only against the idea of in-laws and marriage but also against dangerous traditions that are upheld for no particular reason and against traditions that are upheld for selfish, capitalist reasons.
Regarding capitalism, it is important to understand that Alex’s family is ridiculously rich, while Grace comes from very humble beginnings having been brought up in foster homes. As an article by Andrea Renney, titled ‘Ready or Not Appeals to Millenials’ Disdain for the 1% by Beating Them at Their Own Games’ and published in ‘The Peak,’ highlights, Alex’s family “is exceptionally wealthy” and they are “caricatures of…bourgeoisie society: they self-medicate, are in loveless marriages, and prove to be incompetent when forced to do independent tasks.” Grace, coming from her particular background and going up against such wealth and power, is definitely an emblem of class struggles, particularly in the modern era, particularly when our heroine’s wholesome, warm, funny nature and her humble beginnings are contrasted with the ugly, angry, evil ideals that are adhered to by the wealthy family.
Lastly, I do think that Grace can be regarded as a feminist heroine (but aren’t all heroines, by definition, representative of feminism?) because she is the depiction of a woman who faces insurmountable odds and does her best to come out unscathed. Grace can stand for the ability of women to withstand and overcome outdated traditions and mores that stifle whole societies of women, of which the institution of marriage can definitely be counted as one. Furthermore, her physical prowess – particularly in the scenes where she fights the men in the family who try to kill her – and her perseverance in the new world of upper-class wealth and misery that threaten her life are definitely elements that can be counted towards regarding Grace as a feminist character.
I do believe that because of these elements and more (including Samara Weaving’s excellent performance as Grace and the sharp, funny screenplay by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy), ‘Ready or Not’ will remain emblematic of the black comedy or the horror-comedy for many years in the future, where, I am sure, it will be regarded as a cult classic.