There's a scene somewhere past the halfway mark of Ready or Not (HBO) that exemplifies the movie's absurdities. Really, it's not even a scene, but a moment. Samara Weaving's Grace, on the run from her new in-laws, drops down from an upper ledge, an undignified fall that goes unnoticed by the man watching because he's too busy texting.
The horror-comedy blend is one of my favorite genres, going all the way back to Scream but updated and refined with flicks like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and, now, Ready or Not. Scary movies have a visceral edge that, in the right viewing environment (lights off, phones down) suck you in with a pull that most dramas, action flicks, etc. can't match. Personally, I think it's because most good horror films allow you the chance to place yourself in the situation, to feel what the star is feeling, until, when the grisly or ghostly jumps happen, it's like they're happening to you.
Pure, straight horror can be a terrifying delight from time to time, but it's a special brew that requires the right mood and, perhaps more importantly, the right timing so that a sleepless night doesn't ruin the next day. Spicing up the scary with some laughs, though, can cut against the grim and leave you, if not smiling, at least comfortable at the end instead of bug-eyed and checking every shadowy corner in your house a dozen times.
Ready or Not plays to a particular brand of comedy that works well in horror flicks: most of the characters, like the aforementioned texting guy, realize they're in a ridiculous situation and comment, much like you and I might, on how crazy things are. Many scary movies play with the victims not believing what's happening until, inevitably, the evil consumes them. Here, they see what's going on, but they're incredulous in the face of it, as if they're asking you, the audience, whether you can believe what's happening.
And you can, generally, because while Ready or Not is absurd, it's not entirely fanciful until the very end. Most of the action is grounded in over the top, but real, violence. These aren't witches or assassins or demons being dealt with here. Instead, Grace has to deal with a group of very rich people using old-age weaponry with varying, and often hilarious, skill: one even looks up a YouTube video to figure out how to use their weapon.
The film is also suffused with satire about extreme wealth, a continuing commentary that runs throughout but is often delivered at such an absurd level that it doesn't distract from the main adventure. Servants, trapped within the house while Grace is hunted, are, themselves, routinely dispatched through accidents and other means and summarily removed much like trash. In another movie, the callous disregard for human life by people whose wealth allows them to act this way might be a focus. Here, it's another reason to side with Grace as she fights to escape the family she just married into.
All of this is to say that there's a balance here between Grace's growing peril and the incompetence of her pursuit that makes Ready or Not a great time that doesn't overstay its welcome. If you're looking for a fun, somewhat scary movie to watch during October, this is a good way to end an evening.
A couple things this week on the writing front!
- The Spear, a shortish story starring The Skyward Saga's Malo is free this week on Amazon, so give that a look if you want a fun jaunt through the jungle with your morning coffee.
- In a few weeks, Rogue Bet launches. This is the next book in The Wild Nines series, a fast-paced space opera, which means you've got some time to get caught up before Davin & co get themselves into more trouble. I'll talk more about this one over the coming weeks, but I really enjoyed writing it. There's a sarcastic, fun energy to The Wild Nines that just makes it a joyful world to play in. When you're smiling while doing the editing, that's always a good sign.
Anyway, happy Monday - have a good week!