Ready or Not: The slasher revival
You’re Next meets Get Out meets something else in this highly entertaining, brilliantly ridiculous horror comedy starring Samara Weaving as one of the most badass final girls of the decade.
The 2019 film Ready or Not follows Grace, a typical girl next door who is about to marry into the wealthy Le Domas family and their board game empire. On her wedding night, as a family tradition, she is forced to play a brutal game of Hide and Seek. As the game begins, she learns that she must spend the night fighting her in-laws, whose sole objective is to hunt her down and kill her before dawn.
The movie was directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, a duo of horror filmmakers with a relatively short career, who as of 2019 had mostly participated in anthologies like V/H/S (2012) and Southbound (2016), and released a solo debut in 2014: Devil’s Due, which had a lousy critical reception -and which I have yet to check out-. However, I think it’s safe to say that with Ready or Not, these two have been redeemed from past mistakes, finally establishing themselves as an outstanding team of horror directors. (Something that gives me -and surely all horror fans- tremendous hope considering that they are the ones set to direct the upcoming fifth entrance to none other than Scream).
Ready or Not is already iconic, an instant modern classic. The film’s comedic premise adds a fresh spin to horror, all the while staying true to the roots and tropes of the slasher subgenre. There lies the brilliancy of it all: in how the film manages to successfully respond to the constant need to renew and deconstruct the horror genre, but at the same time homages its staples. Rather than forgetting where it comes from, Ready or Not is self-aware, as it builds a classic slasher story, but does so from an innovative approach.
I think this is particularly notable taking into account the importance of the element of comedy in it. Horror comedies aren’t always an easy terrain, and they often result in total hits or misses. I believe most of the time this happens because they either pretend to be more than they actually are or they stay trapped in a series of comedic reliefs, one after the other. Ready or Not never takes itself too seriously, and that’s the key to its success. Its story is ridiculous and absurd in all the best ways. Even when acknowledging that there is a certain sociopolitical commentary in the plot, that of class warfare (see Eren Orbey’s review from The New Yorker, for instance), it is all hidden behind bloody violence and a satirically morbid form of humor. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending alone is brilliant, and I think it just goes to prove how far a director can go when breaking all the rules of what the viewer expects to see in the resolution of a movie.
Now on to what I believe is the biggest achievement in Ready or Not: Samara Weaving’s performance. For a while now, we’ve been witnessing the cinematic wonders of Samara Weaving. Horror fans everywhere are pretty much certain that she will go down in history as one of the most iconic scream queens of our times. From her appearance in Ash v. the Evil Dead to starring as the lead in acclaimed films like The Babysitter (2017) and Mayhem (2017), Weaving has progressively established herself as a contemporary horror icon, and I think I speak for all horror fans when I say she could easily become this generation’s Jamie Lee Curtis -can we get a good remake of Prom Night with her already?-.
And the cherry on top of the amazingness-of-samara-weaving sundae is Grace Le Domas. In Ready or Not, Weaving embodies one of the most badass final girls I have seen in quite some time, probably only second to Erin from You’re Next (2013) -which is particularly interesting considering the similarities between both films-. Grace Le Domas is the perfect mix of naiveté, wit, and survival instinct. From the timid bride trying to fit into her new family, to a vengeful, empowered woman who doesn’t give a single f*ck, and who will do what it takes to survive, Grace is everything we want to see in a final girl. Ready or Not is Weaving’s show. The rest is secondary.
I’m not sure Ready or Not will remain in my Top 10 forever. It’s probably too early to tell. But right now, it is definitely a strong favorite of mine. For a sucker of the slasher genre -and, obviously, of the final girl trope-, this film was exactly what I needed. It was entertaining, refreshing, and nostalgic all at once. And Weaving blew me away scene after scene. These are the slashers we need today, and I sure hope this duo of directors follow the path that they now have set.