WARNING: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Is it possible to be a Final Girl even though everyone is still alive and don’t want to kill you? Yes. Enter Grace.
Ready or Not follows Grace (Samara Weaving) on her wedding day where she is happily marrying Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), a son of the crazy rich Le Domas family whose fortune was created on a board game empire by his great-grandfather. The night of their wedding, Alex tells Grace that in order to be a part of the family she must play a game with them at midnight. Grace laughs at this tradition, but Alex clearly seems troubled. He even mentions that his family cares more about the initiation itself than the wedding.
While Grace prepares her game face, Tony Le Domas (Henry Czerny), Alex’s father, asks Alex if he’s prepared to do what he must if Grace pulls a specific card. During the initiation, Tony explains the history of the Le Domas family: Alex’s great-grandfather made a deal with a wealthy man named Justin Le Bail. That involved a mysterious card box which Grace must pick a card from decades later.
Naturally, Grace picks out the one card that requires a massive price: hide and seek. She laughs at the childish game while everyone else sits in an awkward, uncomfortable silence. What Grace doesn’t know is that the hide and seek she is playing is actually a manhunt, and she must be found and sacrificed to Mr. Le Bail before sunrise else the entire Le Domas family will die. Grace, oblivious, goes to hide while the rest of the family gears up for a night of high stakes.
A Unique Final Girl
The final girl theory was coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. According to Clover, the final girl has the following characteristics:
- Sexually unavailable or virginal while also avoids participation in drugs and alcohol
- Unisex name (e.g. Sidney in Scream or Laurie in Halloween)
- Potentially has a history with the killer
- The final confrontation with the killer masculinizes the final girl by taking up a weapon (usually a knife or chainsaw) against the killer. Clover writes that it must be a woman because she must experience terror, which would be rejected by viewers if it were a man instead.
The final girl trope has been used for years, but Ready or Not utilizes the it in a particularly refreshing new way.
Let’s take care of the easy things first. Instead of having the final girl sexually unavailable, Grace completely embraces sex. After the wedding, Grace and Alex go to their room where Grace pushes Alex on the bed to consumate their happy day. Alex tries to tell Grace something, but Grace says “Take off your pants.” She also participates in drugs and alcohol. She is a smoker, although she hides this fact from Alex’s family because she wants to be liked, and she drinks alongside everyone else.
Now the tricky part. How can Grace be considered a final girl if everyone is still alive? Furthermore, if the family needs to kill her, isn’t she already a stereotypical final girl since she is connected with the killer? The Le Domas family aren’t the killers, they are merely the minions of the real killer. Remember, the Le Domas are only hunting Grace because of the required sacrifice of Mr. Le Bail. The real entity that Grace must face is Mr. Le Bail. Thus, Grace has absolutely no history with the killer.
At the end, the Le Domas family fails to sacrifice Grace which leads to their violent, explosive deaths. It is revealed that the Le Domas made a deal with the devil in exchange for their massive wealth. It has also been noted that La Bail is an anagram for belial – a name for the devil.
Ready or Not isn’t merely a film that hunts its female protagonist, since the only time someone has picked the Hide and Seek card was 30 years ago when Alex was a child. The only difference is that the person being hunted was not a bride, but rather a groom. More specifically, Aunt Helene’s (Nicky Guadagni) groom.
Grace did fight for survival like a Final Girl, which as a result, impresses Mr. La Bail who gives her a pleased nod following his murder of the entire Le Domas family. Furthermore, Grace’s final confrontation with the actual killer is not filled with terror, nor is she weaponized. She is ismply exasperated following the nights events and lets out a sigh; “Fuck.”
On the surface, Grace is a Final Girl. She is able to survive until sunrise. Sure, she receives some help from Alex and Daniel, but Grace thinks only for herself. She is willing to do what she must for her survival and no one else’s. But there’s something that goes beyond her role: the Le Domas’ are satanists. It’s quite interesting that, as they play hide and seek, they must search for ‘Grace’. How are a group of people with no souls trying to find grace? Literally. In religious context, grace is getting what you don’t deserve as opposed to karma.
Thoughout the duration of the game, none of the Le Domas’ are able to find Grace except for Daniel (Adam Brody), Alex’s brother. Daniel is an interesting character because he is the only one of the Le Domas’ that believes the family must die and deserve to be burned to the ground. At the start of the film, Grace tells Alex, “Your alcoholic brother keeps hitting on me” while acknowledging that the rest of Alex’s family dislikes Grace. There are several ways this specific dialogue could be interpreted. The main one is that Daniel was trying to postpone the wedding as much as he could, hence the constant attempted flirtation. But if read with a religious lens, it could have also been Daniel’s way of asking for grace despite his inevitable satanic nature.
Daniel is already married to Charity (Elyse Levesque) who clearly only married him for his money. When Charity tells him, “[Grace] will never be one of us,” Daniel responds with “Of course not, dear. She has a soul.” This is the first time Daniel mentions souls, but it isn’t the last. His repetition of having souls is explicitly foreshadowing the true nature of the Le Domas, but is easily brushed off because he is a drunken ‘fuck-up’.
The only other family member that likes Grace is Becky (Andie MacDowell), Alex’s mother. While she is more willing to contribute to the hunt than Daniel, Becky admits several times that she does not want to do what they must. When Tony mentions his dislike for Grace, Becky counters by saying, “Our child brought a good one.”
Daniel and Becky’s soft spot for Grace brings in the question of her symbolism. They die through Grace. Daniel poisons the family to buy her time to escape. Note the piece of dialogue that is exchanged in that moment: Grace says “I knew you’d help,” to which Daniel responds with “I didn’t.” Daniel is then murdered by Charity as he shields Grace from gunfire.
Once Daniel is dead, Grace noticably changes. She marches toward Charity, unfazed by her gun, and knocks her out. Then she violently beats Tony with a lantern. Finally, Becky attempts to stop Grace, but fails. Grace bashes in her face in with the box from which she pulled the hide and seek card.
Although their deaths are still painful, Daniel and Becky are basically spared. They are the only two of the Le Domas that do not die by Satan’s hands. They’re given Grace instead.
Could Grace be a higher power?
“She’s taking all of us out! How is she doing this?!”
At first, Grace is more concerned with hiding from the family. By simply hiding, the Le Domas’ accidentally murder the maids. They also begin to get nervous because they cannot find Grace, so they decide to cheat for the first time and use the security cameras (the main rule is that the games must be played how they were played in their great-grandfather’s era). The moment the Le Domas begin to cheat, they run into more problems: Grace escapes the house.
Once Grace is outside, the Le Domas do not attempt to find her. Instead, they send their butler Stevens (John Ralston) – another form of cheating because he is not a part of the family. Stevens manages to find Grace and sleep dart her. As he’s on video chat with the Le Domas, Grace regains consciousness and violently kicks him causing the car to flip.
Daniel finds Grace and knocks her out because he knew he was being followed by Tony. The only times throughout the film when Grace is found is by Daniel. None of the other family members are able to find her. Daniel’s willingness to help her makes his father question “Whose side are you on?”
Bringing back Grace’s religious symbolism, Daniel’s constant desire for grace from his evil family allows her to defeat them. However, this is hidden due to Alex’s role. In the prologue, Daniel tried to shield Alex from the evil of the family when they were younger. Later, after Alex is handcuffed to a bed to prevent him from helping his new wife, he tells Becky that he left his family because their ways scared him, but being with Grace made him feel like he could be good too. However, he selfishly kept Grace in the dark about his family.
When talking to Becky, Grace reveals that she comes from a foster home. She never really had a family, just temporary ones. She then says that Alex understands how important it is to her that she finally has that permanent family.
This could also be the film’s commentary on class and privilege, but Alex reveals to Grace that he didn’t tell her about the initiation or the card because he didn’t want to lose her. Grace, as any rational person, expresses anger at Alex for omitting this important information to which he replies with “You wanted to get married.” Alex willingly traps Grace in a marriage. So at the end, when Alex is the last Le Domas alive pleading Grace to stay with him (not out of love, but out of fear because he knows he is next to die), Grace throws the ring at him instead and says “I want a divorce.”
The film spends so much time expressing that Alex was meant to be the good one, but contradicts itself through Daniel. Besides saying they deserve to die, Daniel tells Grace “I’m gonna burn it all down.” However, he doesn’t. Grace and Daniel’s connection is not a you-should-be-with-me-instead romance, but rather calling a higher power for help by Daniel. His wish to burn the house down is fulfilled by Grace.
She is the one to set the Le Domas estate alight. Grace somehow knew that Daniel would be the one to save her, even though he tells her “If anyone was gonna save you, it would’ve been [Alex].” However, Grace does not give Alex a single thought. She overhears Helene and Tony’s talk about Alex’s true purpose––to lead the family––and completely takes him out of the picture.
While Grace doesn’t embody the unisex name characteristic of the Final Girl trope, her name does establish another level. The Le Domas’ dislike for Grace, established at the very beginning, can be taken as a warning of their aversion to her in their satanic household.
Yet, even as Helene attempts to murder Grace despite sunrise already there, Satan still takes the Le Domas family. His nod to Grace is especially intriguing. None of the Le Domas have seen Mr. Le Bail except Alex (Helene and Tony fight over whether he did or didn’t see him when he was five). They only acknowledge his presence by never sitting in his chair. As they explode one by one, they plead to him by addressing directly to the chair, but there’s nothing there. Only after they’re dead, Mr. Le Bail appears to Grace. Satan acknowledges that he lost this time to another higher power. The evil and the soulless never stood a chance against good grace.
by Emily D’Gyves
Emily is an English graduate with a minor in Film Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker, but do not ask her what her favorite films are because her heart is so big––she loves so many. She is, however, a big Marvel fan (A Carol Danvers stan first, then a human being). You can find her on Twitter @emilydgyves and Letterboxd @iamspiderman.