READY OR NOT (2019) Review

Recently films have been shining a light on class conflict (Parasite, Joker, this film). Judging from the description of this film, it sounded like to might bend a bit more toward goofiness, but it was deadly serious, despite the satirical yet pulpy plot scenario: girl must kill or be killed in deadly game of survival. 

Ready or Not opens with shots of beautifully hand-painted vintage games, curious antique board games and puzzle boxes which are beguiling and unfamiliar. Then there’s a flashback to a vicious cat-and-mouse game in which the participants wear grotesque masks not unlike the famous pig face Twilight Zone episode but also containing traces of another episode in which a dying patriarch forces his greedy family members to wear masks displaying various shades of wretchedness contained within their personalities. 

Cut to: present day at the scene of a wedding. If the initial flashback were not blatant enough foreshadowing for you, the wealthy groom expresses insistent trepidation about the darkness in his family to his would-be bride: “Who cares what they think? They’re horrible people.” 

The wedding goes off without a hitch, but, in a moment of forceful dramatic irony, we know what’s in store for non-Bridezilla long before she does. As an initiation ritual into the family, new spouses must draw a card from an ancient game box because the family’s departed fortune-maker struck some sort of a shady deal with a “Mr. Le Bail” on his passage to these United States.

She draws the one evil card, innocuously titled Hide and Seek, to the horror of her betrothed. The game begins through servant quarters, hidden passages, fingernail biting while in fetal positions in dumbwaiters, a game room reserved for family members only (the scene of the memorably wicked ending), pits in sheep barns with dead bodies, woods, cars that can turn themselves off, and the hateful stares of devoted-until-death servants. 

The other family members take part in the sinister game without hesitation. “I’d rather be dead than lose all of this,” one particularly heartless heiress states. 

“You’ll do pretty much anything as long as your family says it’s okay,” says her would-be betrothed. But will he also, like his overweight brother in-law who “can’t stand flying commercially,” search the internet for the question “Pacts with the devil real or bullshit” while offscreen? 

Even though the scenario of a deadly cat-and-mouse game played by aristocratic devil-worshipers is unlikely, the film still poses complex questions about human nature, offering moments of physical and emotional conflict in which characters test their strength and allegiances with such deep physical pain and psychological betrayal so as to reveal their weaknesses, so as to reveal to the audience who they truly are after all pretense and posturing has been stripped away. Because it’s only then when you find you who you truly are: only when you are caught like a shrieking rabbit in the trap of such desperate and terrible circumstances.     

Today is April 28th, 2020, and Ready or Not (2019) is streaming right now on various VOD platforms.

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