You’ll probably want to see Ready or Not, the amusingly trashy horror-comedy that opens this weekend. I judge it the perfect late summer distraction, 90 minutes of hilariously grotesque mayhem and a star-making turn for Australian actor Samara Weaving who plays a bride named Grace marrying into an eccentric, board game–fortune family. The wedding held at the family estate is an ominous affair. The reason why becomes clear in short order: The evening will conclude with a ritualized family initiation—a deadly round of hide and seek with the family hunting Grace with guns, crossbows, axes, and the like.
That’s the set up: a rich family targeting a pretty outsider. The script by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy takes pains to establish that Grace is not to the manor born. And her transformation from delicate bride to no-frills badass who turns the tables on her murderous in-laws is the film’s calling card and comedic gimmick. “Fucking rich people,” she mutters, which sums up the movie in three words.
That’s where we are in entertainment right now: fucking rich people. In its small, midnight-movie way, Ready or Not struck me as a kind of top-of-the-rollercoaster moment. The entertainment industry has come to the conclusion that the best way to extract dollars from all of us is to declare open season on the 1 percent.
No, this isn’t new, exactly. Rich villains are a hoary Hollywood trope. We’ve been rooting for the little guy against the big, bad corporate types for as long as we’ve been going to movies. But something has changed. We used to want Erin Brockovich to get her $2 million payout at the end. We used to love that Batman lived in a billionaire’s mansion.
Ready or Not wants something different. To burn the mansion down and walk away. To see rich people explode (which they literally do at one point). And it continues a year in which genre filmmaking—always the tip of the spear in terms of populist fervor—has been class-minded and bloodthirsty. Jordan Peele’s Us was a horrific reverie about underclass revenge. Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale (still out now) is a brutalizing tour de force about the way violence to the oppressed begets more of the same. In October, Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s hotly awaited Parasite, will be released: a dystopic vision of rich people feeding off the poor and vice-versa. Rian Johnson’s ensemble romp Knives Out, which comes out in November and which I can’t spoil, has class on its bloody mind as well.
I love genre filmmaking, and liked some of the above, but much of this has my hypocrisy antennae twitching. The entertainment industry is a remorseless wealth-generating machine and it feels a little bit like a prank to get us cheering for mayhem against the deep-pocketed types that deliver this stuff to us. We’re living in Trump’s America, after all, and short of news of President Warren moving into the Oval, comeuppance to the wealthiest among us is definitely not nigh.
Again, I had a good time at Ready or Not and you will too, but it wound up reminding me that nothing is a substitute for true satire, that unsettling situation where you don’t know whom exactly to root for, or what to pump your fist about. Which is a long way of saying: Thank god for Succession! HBO has the best thing to watch on any screen anywhere right now, and that show, in its smart, subtlely satiric way, lets us see rich people truly getting what they deserve.