Justine Smith: 'Ready or not' is cartoonish in gore, unoriginal in scheme

At best, the movie iis a way to blow off some steam for 95 minutes before going back to hollow comforts of the status quo

Samara Weaving in Ready or Not (2019). Fox Searchlight

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When it comes to edgy and subversive politics, Hollywood likes to have its cake and eat it too. The film industry doesn’t shy away from social movements and political ideology as long as it helps their bottom line. But, to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, these ideals are only ever presented in the most shallow manner imaginable, reduced to snappy and faux-empowering slogans and vague revenge fantasies. The approach is obvious: be politically apolitical and cash in on audience frustrations without actually challenging the way they see the world. 

Ready or Not, a gruesome and gory horror-comedy about a wedding night going wrong, takes on class inequality with all the bite of a toothless lion. In the film, Grace (Samara Weaving) has married into old money. After the ceremony, she has to play a game to seal her initiation into the family. What begins as Gosford Park quickly turns into a Battle Royale, as Grace fights for her life in a high-stakes kill or be killed game of hide or seek. 

Mark O’Brien and Samara Weaving in Ready or Not (2019). Fox Searchlight

It’s a movie about the insular, imprudent and incestuous world of the highest-class and their general disregard for all the poor mortals who are not privileged to be born into wealth. You love to hate the vast majority of the characters, burlesque caricatures of the so-called one percent. If the movie had a slogan, it might as well be “eat the rich,” but Ready or Not is an equal opportunity bloodbath, and the film also revels in the death of the nameless, voiceless “help.” 

At its best, the film leans into violence. Ready or Not is not a sanitized PG-13 horror; it’s brutal, bloody and cartoonish. For every character who has an expert control of weaponry, half-a-dozen flounder in mediocrity. Most of the assassins are clumsy rich kids who have never cut a vegetable, let alone wielded a knife as a weapon. More Naked Gun than John Wick, if they “get their man,” it’s born out of luck rather than skill. 

Nevertheless, Weaving is fantastic as a re-imagined Bride from Kill Bill, a woman who yearns for love but finds herself on the brink of death, all on her wedding night. In the tradition of scream queens, she channels intense, primal energy. As an audience surrogate, it’s impossible not to root for her. However, the script does little to support her performance. Rather than show why she’s special, the film relies heavily on telling us. 


From conversations, we learn about Grace’s past. She grew up in foster homes and always wanted to have a family. This framing is the crux of why we are supposed to root for her. But we never see why she is “good” or “worthy,” the script simply tells us she is. In spite of Weaving’s show-stopping performance, Grace’s narrative evolution feels similarly underdeveloped.

The film makes it easy to hate the rich, without engaging with systematic problems of wealth inequality. These cartoon monsters are silly and cruel, and it’s hard not to glean joy in seeing them self-destruct. The film takes the easy way out in this regard. You likely won’t walk away cheering for the rich, but you won’t be an avowed Marxist either. For a film to feeds so ferociously off class frustrations, Ready or Not‘s political apathy feels lazy and opportunistic.

The very existence of Ready or Not feels like a “let them eat cake” gesture as it razzle-dazzles audiences with snappy catch-lines and explosive gore. More Grand Theft Auto than Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, at best Ready or Not is a way to blow off some steam for 95 minutes before going back to hollow comforts of the status quo.

2.5 stars

Ready or Not opened across Canada on Aug. 21.