Let’s wash away the bad taste of Night of the Living Deb with something great. And yes, there might be many good to excellent horror comedies, but great ones are a rare breed indeed. This is easily one of them. It’s too soon to call it a classic even though I might want to. I guess I have to wait another 23 years to do so (although comedies tend to age poorly, so I can’t know if I would even feel this way in a couple of years – except that comedy usually ages poorly due to making fun of unprotected minorities, which I don’t expect rich people to reach any time soon).
Grace is about to marry Alex, an heir of an extremely rich gaming dynasty (although I don’t expect anyone to get this rich with tabletop games even if Monopoly is still making tens of millions each year). The thing is, the family has made a pact with the Devil and this means that she needs to play a game. Since Grace isn’t actually a gold digger, Devil wants to get rid of her and gives her the one game that will lead to her death – Hide and Seek. Grace just happens to resourceful enough not to be easy prey.
So, previously, when I wanted to call this a classic, I’m not trying to convey that this is going to be a genre classic. No, I would like to see this as an actual classic. Sure, movies like this don’t get that kind of attention. This wasn’t a big hit, so it’s quite possible that it will just be forgotten in the long run. Gladly, the cultural norms around “important” art have changed. Princess Bride was seen as just some light entertainment flick in my youth. On those terms it could never have reached the status it has now.
Why do I believe this could be a classic? Well, it’s entertaining for one. If that was the only criterion this would be the best movie of the last few years. However, I do think it’s more than that. In order to stand the test of time, true classics need a message and 2019 seemed to be the year Hollywood finally got around to hating rich people.
Of course, Parasite was the real big phenomenon. but there was also Joker, Us, Knives Out and lesser known movies like Bacurau. In these movies the bad guys didn’t become rich by being bad, but instead they were bad, because they were rich. In Parasite they weren’t actually that bad, but they were indifferent to those they saw as their lessers, in Joker the interests of the rich had made the city a place of despair, in Us some unknown power had just dumped a bunch of people below ground when they didn’t have a use for them anymore, in Knives Out the rich family tries to make sure rightful heir doesn’t get her’s, because in their minds that’s not the way things are supposed to go, and in Bacurau a group of rich people attack a small village for sport. In Ready or Not the rich are willing to kill an innocent people to keep their money.
This tells you something: When several good to great movies have similar themes, that means that something has changed in the zeitgeist. There is an audience for movies in which the rich as a class are the problem. Parasite is named just that for a reason. Rich people are a cost to all of us. People are beginning to understand this on a level where it’s okay to talk about it in mainstream media.
Of course, just sensing what’s going on in people’s minds isn’t enough. You still need to be able to reach the people. While this wasn’t a huge hit in theaters, based on IMDb figures it has been seen by plenty of people since then. It probably does work better in the home market, which is friendlier for horror anyhow. So, what does it do right?
We have a charismatic lead. Samara Weaving is obviously beautiful, which might easily push her into the generic hottie role, but she also seems like a fun person. I want to be on her side and I want her to succeed in her escape. She isn’t perfect. The scene in which she arms herself with some sort of elephant gun (I guess) actually leads nowhere. She is a badass, but she isn’t a transplant from an action movie either. She’s exactly what the movie needs.
We also have a bunch of other memorable characters. It was so good to see Andie MacDowell (who I hadn’t seen in anything since Four Weddings and a Funeral, which was 25 years before this), who brings a great sympathetic, but also very pragmatic performance. She gets to do something that’s far out of the realm of her 80s and 90s career I remember and she seems to enjoy every moment. It’s fun to see her cuss at sixty. Others don’t even seem to use very strong language or maybe her use is just more noticeable. The others are a great mix of hubris, incompetence, wrong-headed nurture, submission to the situation and opportunism. I might not be able to name all the members of the family by heart, but I could definitely list them by various traits.
There’s a simple but effective plot. There is a B plot with how the family evolves, but mostly Grace is just trying to escape. Not much nuance in that, but who wants anything more in a horror comedy? The high concept takes care of the heavy lifting in that regard. There are some clumsy parts here and there, but due to the nature of the movie, you don’t pay too much attention to those.
And the music. I just wanted to note the diegetic music here. The Hide & Seek Song is simply a masterpiece. I don’t think I’ll be adding it to any playlists I curate, but for the purpose and context it was made it’s just so perfect. It’s playful, but there’s also just a hint of menace.
Oh yeah, the ending. I love the ending. While I don’t usually avoid spoilers here, I’m not going to spoil this one. Let’s just say that it’s utterly satisfying. The final punchline is predictable, but still gets me.
While this didn’t make my list of my favorite movies of all time last year, it definitely could in four years when I make the next version. I’ve already seen it more times than I care to admit. It’s one of those movies you can put on after an exhausting day at work, but at the same time it’s just so much more than a simple thrill aimed at the lowest common denominator.
Am I overselling here? Not really. I do cherish the movie in a way I only cherish very few movies, but at the same time I do understand that not everyone is going to enjoy this as much as I do. Which just probably means that there’s something wrong with you.