Surely at some point, every blessed being on this planet would have thought their family to be crazy or their in-laws to be a pain. Well, for those, I am suggesting a healthy dose of Fox Searchlight’s and Radio Silence’s latest, ‘Ready or Not’, a thriller with twists so bloody that will make you go and hug your current ones, no matter how crazy or painful living with them may feel. I don’t mean that in an emotional, all overcoming sense, but in a sense of a heaving sigh of relief, since the Le Domas’ are one truly fucked up group of people.
Trust me when I say this, they are not the kind of people you want to be left alone in a room with, forget being doomed as the newlywed of the house. A deadly game, a forlorn ritual, a 19th Century mansion, crazy in-laws, satanic cults, murder, accidental deaths, hilarity and thrills are what you sign up for if you have recently helped yourself to ‘Ready or Not’, the ending of it being the best part of the film. More on that as I expand on that dubious ending with a very special appearance, and a few other aspects of the film in this explainer. Read on.
The Ending, Explained
I haven’t said this for a film in a long while, since most films with interesting premises end up having rather disappointing finales, but ‘Ready or Not’s best part is easily its equal parts horrifying, equal parts funny ending. How a finale with such polar opposite qualifications is pulled off in near perfection is something that the makers have to be fully credited for. It surprises in a fashion that Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ did, but in the gore department, this one leaves Tarantino’s ode to 60s Hollywood and the abrupt yet delightful shift in the history of the Manson-Tate murders far behind. For studying the finale, we will be rewinding our clocks back to when Grace is caught by Alex who turns on her after seeing her kill his mother brutally and assuming that she was the one to have shot the now deceased Daniel.
Grace is captured again by the family on the table, and this time, is ready to be sacrificed by Alex himself who seems to have taken Aunt Helene’s talks about being the family’s true heir after Tony too seriously. It is just minutes to dawn whence the Satan worshipping family assumes that they’d all die if Grace wasn’t ritualistically sacrificed before the sun rose, and just as Alex is about to plunge a knife through her heart, she bites off the hand of one of her captors in a desperate bid to escape, resulting in Alex stabbing her in the shoulder instead, missing just as she was able to move enough. This proves to be her apparent final escape from the mad family’s games as they watch the sun rise, thinking them to be doomed.
For a few minutes, the family all believe that the incoming sunlight would kill them, in a hilarious scene of fantastically timed humour, just when Fitch points out that the theory may be bogus after all. Convinced, Aunt Helene proceeds to still kill Grace to make it up to “the lord”, just as she instantaneously explodes into a bloody mess in the middle of the room, her remains and innards lining the walls and ceiling of the ritual room.
It is then only a matter of time as the other members of the Le Domas family suffer the same fate, each of them literally exploding into bits of flesh and blood, scattered across the room and across Grace’s distraught face, who now has caught an idea of what is conspiring. Alex, being the last one to survive the literal bloodbath pleads to Grace to take him back and apologises for turning against her, as a dismissive Grace asks for divorce and throws his marriage ring at him, watching him explode into the same bloody mess.
One might struggle to find words more suited to the final sequence of shots in the film than the rather naïve and simplistic “awesome”, but I am going to go with that, as a bloodied and worn out Grace steps out of the house behind her burning; her tattered wedding gown now completely bloody from the events of her first night, and her face, a tired monument still in disbelief, covered in blood all the same.
A rock rendition of Wagner’s ‘Here Comes the Bride’ plays as she sits on the steps and lights up a cigarette from her mother in law’s cigarette holder that she admired in the beginning of the film. The police finally arrive on scene and ask for medical assistance for Grace, as they go on to enquire what happened with her. Smoking carefree, she replies, “In-Laws”. I have to admit that the last time I was so impressed by a resilient bride, she happened to be Uma Thurman dressed in Bruce Lee’s yellow jumpsuit, slaying a hundred samurai with her katana. Onwards to a few peculiar aspects of the story now.
The Le Domas Family Tradition
The root of all evil here is the ages long Le Domas family tradition of game night each time a new member is wed into the family. Grace is no exception and after being told the customary story of how the tradition came to be, she too is asked to pick and place a blank card inside the wooden box from Mr. Le Bail that would in return tell the family what game the bride would be subjected to. More often than not, the games turn out to be harmless, and just what they are, games.
But in rare instances like this one, and the one in the beginning of the film wherein Charles, the newly wed husband of Aunt Helene is shot with crossbows on his wedding night, the game that pops out of the box is Hide and Seek, the deadliest of them all, wherein the newly wed is supposed to hide to a count of hundred, while the family, insisting on arming themselves with 19th century guns and weapons to the likes of a crossbow in honour of Victor Le Domas, Tony’s great grandfather, forming the subject of some hilarious banter later.
To avoid any unfair advantages, just like the times of the great grandfather, the cameras in the premise are switched off and the Le Domas house is placed on lockdown for the deadly game to commence. The family is briefed about capturing Grace alive so as to ritually sacrifice her to Mr. Le Bail. Turns out that the family comprises of Satanic cultists, and the game part is just part of their tradition to honour family profession.
The key takeaway from here is Alex, who despite appearing as the sensible one, having eloped from the family home to see sense at an early age, meets Grace, falls in love with her, proposes to her to keep her from walking away and does everything else in his power to leave his family’s horrible legacy behind. Peculiarly so, he returns to the family home to get married, knowing the fact that Grace would be subjected to the game, keeping this fact from her. Of course, he wished that she too would have to go through a simple, harmless game, instead of Hide and Seek, but it’s not as if the chances of the murderous game appearing on the blank card were zilch. Knowingly so, he put Grace through the predicament and tough night hoping for a more probable outcome, one that didn’t happen, turning against her towards the end, and taking his place as the true heir and leader of the Le Domas family after Tony.
Who Was Mr. Le Bail?
A brief scene that I skipped explaining in the previous section on purpose was one that I am sure would have caught your fancy too. Just as Alex is the last one to depart after exploding like the rest of his family, a horned devil like figure seems to conjure up itself from the fireplace out of the flames, seated in what the family describes as “Mr. Le Bail”s spot on the chair. The figure appears to be appreciative that Grace survived the night, communicating merely through facial expressions and vanishing. It wouldn’t take a genius to guess that indeed was the spirit of the elusive Mr. Le Bail for whom the whole sacrificial ritual was organised, the person that the family claims is responsible for rewarding them with the ancestral material wealth that they so prominently enjoy. Clearly, the film’s and the family’s warnings of being decimated in the morning if the bride wasn’t killed weren’t in vain, thanks to the work of this man.
Digging a little deeper, it is also pretty obvious that Mr. Le Bail was actually an alias for the Devil, Satan himself, which explains why the family chanted Satanic prayers and hailed the devil while sacrificing Grace. Going back to the story that Tony Le Domas told Grace in preparation for the game, involving his great grandfather, Victor Le Domas encountering Mr. Le Bail during one of his voyages, who offered to play with him a game of cards, offering him vast fortune in exchange for the wooden box he hands him over, and in essence, a sign for the ritual to go on.
Even you’d have earlier been in a position to dismiss the family as deluded and their tradition as haberdashery, until the end conspires, and “Mr. Le Bail” kills off the entire family, which is the only possible explanation for them exploding the way they did. In simpler terms, Victor Le Domas made a literal “deal with the devil” who rewarded him and his generations to follow with immense wealth and success, and in return, the devil (or Mr. Le Bail, however you want to call it) had their souls, which he reclaims from the family when Grace manages to stay alive till the morning. Fits in well the devil’s treacherous M.O. too.
F**king Rich People!
One of the other core aspects of the film that I am in deep appreciation of is how the film comments on the aristocracy of the blue bloods: sometimes slyly, and contrarily, sometimes with a blow to the head. Not that the rich people are inherently evil as a colloquial conclusion would suggest, but there isn’t anything remotely normal, forgivable or redeemable about what the Le Domas family had done over the years. It is as Tony remarks at one point, about rich people doing things differently. Of course they made a deal with the devil, and of course the entire family held their souls up for ransom in return for a fortune, finding comfort in sacrificing animals and humans to Satan, but that is the broad outline.
A singular instance that points out how really beyond saving the family was is brought forth by Daniel, who by the end turned out to be the sanest member in the family, also the noblest. Retorting to his ironically named wife Charity on her bloodlust to kill Grace in order to keep the family fortune (and their lives) going, he remarks how she didn’t hesitate one minute to sell her soul to the devil, by participating in the ritual during the time she was wed into the family, even if it turned out to be a harmless game of chess, or maiden’s game. She too retorts saying she would die like that rather than live poor. The same is also true for each member of the family wed into the Le Domas’, including Becky, Fitch and Charity, all of them openly claiming to be golddiggers, selling their souls to Satan in the process. John Doe would have had them all for false pride.
The second instance played out for laughs is the one from where the subhead for this section stems from. An injured and battered Grace finally is able to escape the Le Domas family compounds, cutting herself across the metal fence in the process, to be later captured by Stevens. However, the reason she is willing to cut across the fence is her sight of a passing car that she hopes can provide her some help. She seeks so, and the swanky sedan even stops. Quickly enough, the apparently affluent person in the car drives off apathetically, leaving Grace in the condition that she was in, asking her to stay off the road: not exactly in that tone, leading Grace to spew the words in the subhead. Even though a tad bit derivative, this is without a doubt a scathing play on the oft associated apathy with the blue bloods.
One of the freshest films from the cusp of the close of the summer season this year, ‘Ready Or Not’ is, as the game in its title suggests, relentlessly thrilling. Just as Samara Weaving’s Grace, you are inadvertently pulled into the deadly game that the Le Domas’ set up on the first night of their son’s wedding. Despite moments of relative lull, implying moments when nobody is shot, impaled or killed, you’d find it hard to look at your phone. The pace of the film and the runtime, clocking in at about 95 minutes complements that.
There have been a number of horror comedies before that have exploited the genre and premise duality to deliver something truly unique, but ‘Ready or Not’ pushed it up a notch by giving me something to root for, and in the process taking away the definitive laugh or the definitive squirm. More than once I caught myself confused, thinking up an appropriate reaction, the scene passing up in contemplation, and I must admit, a certain amount of awe too, with the film quickly moving on from that and throwing another thrill at you. Having praised it significantly, I must also state that this is not ground-breaking stuff, but one tends to be seldom concerned with that if the offering is so bloody entertaining. Bloody, shocking, hilarious and thrilling, if an alternate ‘Marriage Story’ was set in hell with a family from deeper beneath, this would be it.