Ready or Not delivers on the promise of The Hunt without any of the exhaustive (and rather performative) political controversy surrounding its release. The new film from Radio Silence (V/H/S) is sort of like a Trojan Horse, luring viewers in with a simple but engaging premise – young woman marries into a wealthy family with a gruesome tradition – only to reveal a far more ruthless and incisive film lurking within. Samara Weaving, in what is surely the breakout she's long-deserved, takes the lead here as Grace, a down-to-earth lady thrilled to be marrying the love of her life, Daniel Le Domas (Mark O'Brien) at his insanely wealthy family's estate. Within the first 10 minutes, the film nimbly establishes the relevant background: Despite Daniel's conviction that his family is monstrous, he's returned home after a relatively lengthy absence at the urging of his bride-to-be, who grew up in foster homes and thus is more appreciative of the concept of family. The De Lomas clan amassed their wealth through a gaming empire and the help of a mysterious benefactor, with whom they struck a pact to carry on a peculiar tradition: When a newcomer joins the family through marriage, he or she must draw a card from a strange box and play the game designated on the card. Unfortunately for Grace, she draws "Hide and Seek" – the one game that requires violence and bloodshed; specifically, the family must hunt Grace down and kill her before sunrise, or else... well, let's just say "or else."
A darkly hilarious, delightfully violent, and rather deft dismantling of the 1% in all their gratuitous absurdity, Ready or Not is even more clever than its marketing lets on. For those concerned that the trailers give too much away, that's definitely not the case; the film has its fair share of twists and turns, each delivered with razor-sharp precision devoid of any obnoxious, self-important back-patting. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, along with writers Ryan Murphy (not that one) and Guy Busick, have a clear respect for the intelligence of their audience that lends the film a self-aware edge. Even beyond the socio-political commentary there is a wildly entertaining horror-comedy with no shortage of guts and gut-busting laughs. Weaving is electric as Grace, a woman about whom little is known aside from her youth in foster care. From that alone we can glean that Grace is self-sufficient and has suffered through her fair share of scrapes – certainly far more than the Le Domas family. It's not particularly surprising, then, when Grace proves more formidable than her would-be killers, leading them on a bloody chase through their own home.
By all appearances, the Le Domas family should have the upper-hand: They're filthy rich, ruthless, and have access to myriad guns, crossbows, and at least one battle axe – wielded by their proverbial battle axe, Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni), who lost her own husband to the family's last game of Hide and Seek. In the years since, Helene has internalized the heartbreak within, where it's impressively calcified into a cold, zealous commitment to Le Domas tradition. But generations of privilege, coddling, and cushy living have made Grace's new in-laws quite incompetent, exacerbated by a clumsy, drug-addled daughter (Melanie Scrofano), an apathetic son (Adam Brody, the film's runner-up MVP), and their respective greedy spouses. The ensuing battle between Grace and her would-be in-laws offers a series of violent gags, each more gnarly and morbidly delightful than the last – interwined throughout with a sharp commentary on the wealthy 1% and the ridiculous, almost superstitious ways in which they cling tightly to their wealth. Ready or Not is absent of any lecturing or superior political posturing, instead creating a cinematic microcosm that aptly reflects the world as we know it, in which Grace represents the average American ("us"), versus the 1% senselessly hoarding all its wealth ("them"). Grace, like most people, just wants to fucking survive, and she's been pitted against a wealthy group with a surplus of means and a callous refusal to share them with those in need. Working in concert with this is the idea that Grace, an unprivileged outsider, is infringing upon that wealth, potentially tarnishing the family name with her unworthy background and taking a slice of a pie that's not hers – but it doesn't really belong to the De Lomas clan, either; as is explicitly laid out in the first act, their wealth is the result of a devilish pact. They never earned their money – not really – and as such, they never learned its value. Or how to fight for it.
Without revealing too much about the film's glorious bloodbath of a resolution, there is a shot in the third act of Grace that belongs right up there with final girl icons like Sally in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Sidney in Scream. And there's a distinct sense of cathartic joy to be derived from watching the De Lomas family go at each other's throats in an absurd attempt to sustain their wealth while Grace cuts through the shit, just trying to make it out of this mess alive.