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Film Review: “Ready or Not” Has a Different Look on In-Laws and Border Walls

Ready or Not release poster. (photo/Wikimedia Commons via DatBot)

This is an installment of a regular thisistheBronX film/TV review series by Bronx film reviewer and writer Adam McPartlan. Check back every Friday for Adam’s film reviews.

FILM REVIEW – by Adam McPartlan

August 29, 2019

What would you do to be accepted by your new family? How would you react if your family had a tradition that may or may not involve murder? If your family had to kill in order to survive, how long would you go along with it? These are just some of the questions asked by the shockingly funny, but also thoughtfully deep horror film Ready or Not. The movie tackles psychotic in-laws, immigration, and rich people in a new, entertaining way. Ready or Not might not be as ambitious a horror film as those of Jordan Peele, but it certainly does make you think about the current state of our country and world.

Grace (Samara Weaving) marries Alex (Mark O’Brien), the newest person to join the wealthy Le Domas family. The family has made their fortune out of board games and, according to the family legend, because of a deal struck by Alex’s great-great-grandfather with a mysterious man called Mr. Le Bail. The family has a tradition where, on the wedding night of a family member, a box randomly picks a game that must be played. The box chooses Hide and Seek, and leaves Alex and the rest of the family, especially his brother Daniel (Adam Brody), in a complete stupor. Grace leaves to hide, the family arms up for the hunt, and the game begins. The stakes: Grace dies before sunrise, or, supposedly because of the deal struck with Le Bail, the entire De Lomas family dies. 

From an entertainment point of view, this film is fantastic. There are a few notes of horror that keep the audience on edge, but the comedy is what makes the film shine. From accidental murders to drug-induced hysteria, there are plenty of times where the theater will fill with laughter. We also get, whether intentional or not, a running reference to V For Vendetta, which starred Samara’s uncle, Hugo Weaving, in the form of a butler constantly humming and listening to the 1812 Overture.

Speaking of Samara Weaving, her performance, along with Adam Brody’s, were wonderful. Weaving’s Grace is unknowingly and unwillingly caught in the middle of a deadly ritual as the sacrificial lamb, but once her new husband finds her and tells her what’s happening, she guts up, grabs a gun, and begins to fight for her life. Brody’s character, on the other hand, knows all too well how everything will go and drinks excessively to cope with it all, uncaring about anything except his brother.

(I will warn you there are spoilers from here on, so read at your own risk if you haven’t seen it.) The writing and direction, though, make this film far greater than just woman vs. crazy in-laws. Most of the film is, at the surface, a bunch of rich white people trying to kill a lower-middle class outsider. The rich people keep changing the rules (at first deciding to use the security system even though the rules forbid it, and then attempting to kill Grace after sunrise even though the game ends at dawn). However, there is a moment when we get to see another side of it. When Grace rips her back open trying to squeeze through a fence to get off the property, the directors give us a new look at the border wall as something that doesn’t just keep people out, but keeps those same people boxed in their deadly environments. And what does Grace get when she escapes, covered in blood, dirt, and wearing a ripped wedding dress, yelling for help? Another rich guy driving down the road, yelling back at her to get out of the road.

There is then the matter of the underlying issue: if Alex loved and cared about Grace, why let her pick the card out of the box at all? It was such a small chance of playing Hide and Seek that the risk was minimal, but nevertheless, the chance of death is still a pretty big risk, especially when it’s not your risk to take. This question is answered after, through defending herself from the onslaught of murder attempts, Daniel is killed by his own wife, Charity, while protecting Grace, and Grace kills Alex’s mother. In addition, when Alex finds Grace, he did not see or know that Charity killed Daniel, instead thinking Grace did. Seeing his mother (and brother) dead because of his wife causes a complete personality change in Alex, from, “I must save my wife,” to, “This person killed my own flesh and blood.” In this way, the directors seem to say that many of us have an undercurrent of animosity looking to blame others for the problems we bring on ourselves.

Charity is also a huge point of this film symbolically. Charity followed the rules and played the game the box chose for her, and so she was allowed into the family; therefore, she thinks Grace must do the same, and play the game out to the end. Except Charity played an innocuous game, one that did not put her life at risk, in much the same way that those who rail against illegal immigrants did not come from war-torn and violent nations, represented by Grace trying to escape to save her life in Hide and Seek. (Spoilers end.)

This is a film that really should cause audiences to think about more than just the families they choose to join through marriage. It should force us to rethink why we hate others for no reason other than “because we were told.” It’s not like we’re going to die when the sun rises.

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Adam McPartlan is a graduate student in the Sports Broadcasting Program at Sacred Heart University. He’s a life-long Bronxite with a deep love of film, television, and writing.

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