Ready or Not is framed as a darkly comedic satire skewering the 1%, a kind of Cabin in the Woods meets Succession.
If you haven’t seen the movie, know this: it lives up to that promise.
[Ed. note: this post contains major spoilers for Ready or Not.]
The film ends in a gleefully bloody, post-wedding massacre, literally and metaphorically burning down the house of blue-blooded privilege. (Though personally, as someone getting married in just over a month, the torture porn started well before the blood started flying.)
But despite the gore, wedding anxiety, and class resentment, the most disturbing exchange in Ready or Not has nothing to do with murder, and is only tangentially related to marriage or wealth. Rather, it reveals a sinister force hiding in plain sight: the simple, insidious entitlement to women’s bodies.
Early in the action, bride Grace (Samara Weaving) learns that her wedding night has turned into The Most Dangerous Game by witnessing a nanny’s accidental murder. Her new husband (Mark O’Brien) pulls her into a hidden servant’s corridor to talk her through an escape plan. When she asks why her new family is hunting her with antique weapons, he explains that his great grandfather made a literal deal with the devil upon founding their board game empire. Newcomers must play a game before they officially join the clan — sometimes it’s Checkers, sometimes Old Maid. But she drew the Hide and Seek card, which means the family has to sacrifice her to their demonic benefactor before dawn, otherwise they’ll all be destroyed (or so the legend goes.)
Grace inquires why the hell he didn’t warn her that this could happen. Alex replies that he was in an impossible Catch-22; she made it clear that she was expecting a proposal, but if he told her about his family’s dark rituals she would leave him. The odds of her pulling that card were so tiny, he reasoned, and he couldn’t bear to live without her. The implication is that the small, but not impossible chance that his family would hunt and kill the woman he loved on their wedding night was a risk worth taking if the alternative is that she ends their “18-month fuck-a-thon.”
When that scene first came up, I worried that it was supposed to read as romantic. The tropes of the genre would suggest it. I thought, perhaps, the movie would end with Alex and Grace working together to take out the rest of the family and escape, presumably inheriting the family business and a large fortune. I was annoyed for the next hour, thinking, “Oh, so we’re just not going to acknowledge the colossally selfish thing this guy did?”
But Ready or Not’s writers (Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy) don’t let Alex off the hook. In the film’s balls-to-the-wall climax, Alex escapes the room where his father (Henry Czerny) handcuffed him to the bed to keep him from helping Grace. He arrives in the dining room to see his new wife covered in blood, having just bludgeoned his mother (the incomparable Andie MacDowell) to death. Weaving’s expressive face shows just how exhausted and raw Grace is; Alex can tell that her feelings for him have fundamentally changed.
This is where Alex’s romantic hero façade falls away, revealing him to be just as selfish, entitled, and cruel as the rest of his family. He goes to hold Grace — tenderly at first but then forcefully — calling out, “She’s in here!” It’s a gutting scene, especially considering how it calls back to the movie’s opening, in which a young Alex hides in a closet while his older brother Daniel rats out the last poor guy who pulled the Hide and Seek card.
But that twist is shocking only if you haven’t been paying attention. Alex told us who he is with that one line in the servant’s corridor. He loves Grace, sure, but to him that means ownership and control. Once he realizes she no longer belongs to him, he immediately discards her.
Of course, entitlement and wealth go hand in hand. It’s easy to feel like you have the right to something when you’ve always gotten what you wanted. But a man feeling ownership over the woman he’s in a romantic partnership with isn’t exclusive to the 1%. Neither is turning on her when she starts to see through his bullshit. One need only read a history textbook, watch the news or, hell, even watch the last season of The Bachelorette to see ordinary men lie to, manipulate, and hurt the women they claim to love.
Much has been made of Ready or Not’s commentary on the wealthy. To be sure, the film is not subtle in its “eat the rich” messaging. But Alex’s heel turn adds nuance to that interpretation. Sometimes, we’re reminded, entitlement shows up in ways much more insidious and subtle than a crossbow bolt to the throat.