Rating: .5 out of 5
Ready or Not is an abysmal film. There is nothing about it that works, not for a lack of effort but as a result of the filmmakers missing the opportunity to make a movie that means something. B-movies are well and good, but only because they have a rigorous commitment to their sense-of -self in spite of contemporary attitudes and responses, they make their meaning in opposition to a traditional system. In that respect, Ready or Not, is a film without backbone. Instead of placing itself outside of the style of a “traditional Hollywood” thriller or even the oppressively dreary feature-length Twilight Zone episodes that independent filmmakers, who in spite of playing copycat manage to remain themselves, Ready or Not squanders it’s run time pursuing any tangent, cliche, or first-draft “jokes” that somehow made the final cut. The premise is not inherently bad but the execution absolutely is, disingenuous, frustrating and deplorably stale. A film as lifeless as the wealthy aristocrats it so desperately attempts to skewer.
Grace (Samara Weaving) is a bride-to-be to a handsomely rich schlub named Alex. From jump he comes across as fickle and passively bourgeois, he has a sardonic and disconnected attitude about his wealth that reeks of insincerity. Grace herself is a quick-witted, indoor-smoking woman from across the tracks whose striking absence of charm is matched only by her penchant for groan-inducing one-liners. She constantly mocks Alex’s family in spite of fully intending to profit off of his riches in the future and coordinate life around pleasures resulting directly from said amassed wealth. She is the vehicle through which the film attempts to revenge the lavish, excessive and brutal practices of the rich (later revealed to be a curse that has been placed on the family, but let us please not read into this too much and give the film more credit than it deserves, this is no Get Out, heck, it’s not even a second rate Chopping Mall in terms of “social commentary”) yet lacks earnest, tangible convictions to be in such beleaguered resistance to them before they start trying to kill her.
The first act attempts to establish a sense of geography for the approaching murderous game. This is accomplished by introducing the viewer to every character that Grace will be terrorized by throughout the film. Through the dozen-or-so people that we are treated too, not a single one rises above the level of caricature, at worst they sink to levels of aggravation and annoyance only possible in a script as lazy as this. Each family member has some petty, vain quirk so trite and unoriginal it makes one appreciate Rian Johnsons’s work in Knives Out which threatened to be exhausting but always remained fun in spite of it’s vapid and ultimately meaningless criticism of the rich. The worst of the bunch are perhaps Daniel (Alex Brody) who attempts to be the loose-cannon, bad-boy, maybe-understanding rich-guy, maybe-not and Becky (Andy MacDowell) who strives for cool sadism and the dissonance of affluence which proves an exhausting exercise for such a cruel mis-casting.
In establishing a sense of place the blatant disregard for meticulousness and obliviousness to choreography seriously damage this film. The momentum is constantly stifled by the transitions from the stuffy geometry of the interiors to the nearly vacant outdoor scenes which are some of Ready or Not’s most excruciating and boring moments. The whole staging feels like a toxic boomerang, one that consistently and magnetically comes back to the wrong spot that it began in, never allowing itself to move forward and unburden itself from itself. Scene after scene the movie insists on being itself, and maybe the worst thing and I can say about this movie is: it is what it is, the product speaks for itself, a repugnant, hollow, and detrimental piece of celluloid that challenges one’s faith in cinema. Ready or Not is a film from the gallows; there is the mourning not only for your wasted time but also for that of the valuable weeks and months lost in the lives of the cast and crew to such a ghastly and pungent abomination.
Ready or Not ends with a sigh, adopting the passive dejection of its villains without ever allowing agency to the main character. Grace runs and screams, runs and screams like characters have been doing in genre-films for decades, and plays no active role in her success or the outcome of the film, simply a vessel to get us through gory set-pieces, cheap thrills and lame jokes. We need genre films to be different and daring, not flat and flimsy. In Ready or Not there is the absence of danger and a disheartening feeling for frivolity. Time is wasted. Nothing is gained.
P.S. For all filmmakers– If we are going to criticize a capitalist system is it possible to adopt more conscious and cruel attitudes? Why do we stop at such petty sentiments when we can strive for new methods? Parasite perhaps answers my questions. Bong Joon-ho made a genre-film that was vicious, gnarling and heart-wrenching, sparing none of its characters from the thrashing tendrils of the capitalist system, its pettiness was profound. Ready or Not by the opposite turn is ugly and dangling, a limp pat on the back of the capitalist machine, it knows nothing of classes, the dogma and ritualism of purchasing, spending and owing, only that it’s a product which knows some to be untrustworthy of the turning of the gears so it seeks to profit off collective unrest with pettiness rendered placid, a familiar gesture devoid of rebellion, ripe with insincerity and deceit.