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The Ending Of Ready Or Not Explained

The notion that wealth and power are inevitably corrosive (and not at all what they seem) is nothing new. It's been touched on in everything from the parables of the gospels to the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. But the past few years brought this age-old axiom into stunning, darkly comedic relief in a number of films and series, including Rian Johnson's "Knives Out," Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story: Apocalypse," and of course, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's "Ready or Not." While the majority of these stories saw the rich turning on one another in bloody, metaphorically-cannibalistic ways when backed into a corner, "Ready or Not" added another layer to this narrative. 

In "Ready or Not," poor girl (Grace, Samara Weaving) meets rich boy (Alex, Mark O'Brien), only to discover upon their wedding night that his exorbitantly wealthy family harbors a dark secret. As it turns out, the family's sporting goods and board game fortune is the result of their great-great ancestor playing a game (aka making a satanic pact) with a mysterious figure named Mr. Le Bail. The family believes that if they don't uphold the tradition of initiating new members of the family by playing a game, they'll die. For most new in-laws, it's a harmless, if eccentric, tradition — but for Grace, it's a death sentence. Grace is forced to spend her wedding night running and hiding in an effort to keep from being literally sacrificed by the 1%. 

Ready or Not weaves multiple subtexts into its plot

On the surface, "Ready or Not" is another tangible (and literal) incarnation of the 99%'s sacrificial lamb status. It is only in the film's plot twist ending that co-writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy's simultaneously penetrating and hilarious subtext rises to the surface. As Alex explains to his new and understandably upset wife at the start of the game, his family thinks that if they don't kill Grace before sunrise, "something very bad will happen to the family." Ah, the rich and their absurd fascination with ritual and tradition, right? 

As if Grace's horrifying circumstances weren't bad enough, there's an added dash of heartbreaking betrayal in her new family's determination to kill her. Grace has spent her life trying to find a family, a nuclear unit to which she can feel she truly belongs. What she finds instead is a family so insular, so ferociously imbedded in their superstitions and traditions, that it's quite literally impossible for any sane, rational human to become one of them. Grace's background and motivation for joining the family is a harsh reminder that in order to join the highest echelons of society, one must first sacrifice not only their humanity, but (in both a metaphorical and occasionally literal sense) their very identity.

Ready or Not dashes the hopes of the 99%

This trade-off is most clearly demonstrated by the family's other in-laws: the ironically-named, gold-digging Charity (Elyse Levesque), and the ridiculously inept Fitch (Kristian Bruun), both of whom seem perfectly okay with the fact that the family they married into murders people for sport. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that at least one member of the family — Grace's brother-in-law Daniel (Adam Brody) — isn't entirely convinced by the superstition. Or, if he is, he's more than ready to watch his horrible family suffer the consequences of the murderous means by which they uphold their existence. 

Alex, on the other hand, while torn about his bride's unfortunate situation, is most haunted by how "normal" his family's behavior (goat sacrifices, etc.) becomes for him. "This is what scared me most," he says to his mother (Andie MacDowell), "that you'll do pretty much anything if your family says it's okay." Though he claims that meeting Grace changed him, because she made him feel like he could be "good, too," he ultimately sides with his family. The brothers' contrasting reactions to their family's actions represent the gap between the hope we secretly hold out for the rich and powerful (that deep down, they can still do the right thing) and the ever-present reality with which we're presented.

While this subtext is sincerely proposed, the film's ultimate thesis is an exercise in irony.

Ready or Not takes irony to a new level

That's because, when all is said and done — and the family fails to murder Grace before sunrise — the curse turns out to be very, very real. After narrowly escaping death, Grace waits with anticipation (along with the family) as the first beams of sunlight stream into their special Black Mass room. But tragedy doesn't befall the family slowly, over time; They don't gradually fall from grace or lose all their wealth and power. Instead, they fully implode, in extreme, literal, bloody, and hilarious fashion. The audience watches alongside a delighted Grace as, one-by-one, each of her in-laws bursts into a veritable fireworks display of blood and guts. 

By having their eccentric, murderous superstition turn out to be real (not just to the surprise of Grace, but to the surprise of viewers as well) "Ready or Not" concludes on a jaw-breaking, tongue-in-cheek note. "You see?" the films says, "the rich aren't horrible because they've been corrupted by wealth and power! They're horrible because they'll literally implode if they fail to play the game by sacrificing the rest of us!" The blood bath upon which "Ready or Not" concludes, while wholly satirical, gives it an edge that your average "eat the rich" narrative doesn't possess. But its layered comedic commentary doesn't end there.

Your innocence won't protect you in Ready or Not

In the final scene of "Ready or Not," Grace — her formerly white dress now blackened by the blood and muck of her struggle — descends the extravagant staircase of the equally extravagant mansion, now roaring with the hellish, red-hot flames of the inferno she set. In the foreground, the pristine white chairs and floral arrangements of the previous day's celebration of matrimony are still set up in orderly, innocent rows. As the camera zooms in on our triumphant hero, the ornate setting fades away, and we're left with a soot and blood covered survivor who lights up one of her former mother-in-law's cigarettes. 

The scene's intentionally heavy-handed contrasts are a final punctuation mark on the age-old allegory, and suggest two things at once: one, that the fight against the corruption of wealth and power (like wealth and power itself) necessarily corrupts; and two, that the veneer of that wealth and power is exactly that — a veneer. Behind it lies nothing but a fire and brimstone hellscape that isn't at all precious or discerning with regard to whom it chooses to consume.