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The wrath of the in-laws


Imagine this: your palms are sweaty, your knees are weak, there’s vomit on your sweater already, and mom’s spagh- 

Wait, no, this isn’t “8 Mile,” and you’re not throwing up in a Detroit bathroom before a rap battle.  

Let’s try this again: your palms are sweaty, your knees are weak and you muster up a forced smile as a horde of people all sharing a vague physical similarity attack you with small talk. You’ve heard the rundown (however embellished it may have been) on all of them: which aunts hate each other with a terrifying passion, which uncle is on a Keto diet and will corner you for an hour-long rant about it, which 10-year-old cousin will rip your hair out if you start playing tag with them. Yet, you haven’t quite met any of them – that is, not until today. This, in all of its awkward-forced-laughs and sweaty-hand-shaking glory, is the first time meeting your significant other’s extended family. 

Anyone that’s been in a semi-serious relationship has experienced this, and as terrifying as it is, it normally turns out okay. Sure, your hand may be a little sore from the over-zealous, over-protective uncle who had a couple too many Lagunitas before he shattered your hand bones into microscopic fragments upon greeting you, but – at the very least – you made it out alive.  

Now, there’s always the underlying, silly fear that maybe you won’t. Maybe, just maybe, that aunt in the corner is planning to dismember your limbs and store you with the other boyfriends, or that seemingly-exponentially-increasing trail of toddler-cousins are planning to murder you with Lincoln Logs or the most oft-thought absurd fear of all: your significant other’s entire family has some sort of pact (or deal with the devil, or family tradition, or fill-in-the-blank) to murder/torture you for some ancient, ritualistic reason. This fear, as familiar and weird as it is, has been exploited by movie screenwriters for years, and has almost morphed into a sub-genre of its own. 

There are the silly in-law movies, like “Meet the Parents,” that play off this fear in a far more realistic way, and then there are the horror in-law movies that take this fear to absurd levels of gory and evil. It’s a great sub-genre of horror movie because it taps into such a relatable feeling that almost everyone knows and takes it to extreme heights of conspiracy-theory ridiculousness. “Get Out” and “Ready or Not,” although two wildly different films on the surface, both co-exist in this psychopathic-in-law subgenre. 

“Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s 2017 directorial debut, tells the story of a young couple (Chris and Rose) going to spend the weekend with Rose’s family for the first time together. While “Get Out” primarily focuses on 21st century white America’s fetishizing of black culture through having Rose’s white family auctioning off Chris’ black body to surgically place one of their brains inside it, the movie still plays off the all-too-familiar fear of meeting your significant other’s family for the first time. “Get Out” is tense, sometimes funny, extremely creepy and does a truly amazing job analyzing the existing racial tensions in today’s America while still providing a gripping thriller. And behind the layers and layers of ornate detail Peele baked into the plot are moments of horrible small-talk between boyfriend and family, like Rose’s dad telling Chris, “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third term if I could.” 

The recently-released “Ready or Not” is drastically different than “Get Out.” For one, it’s much more of a dark comedy than it is a thriller (although I guess both can also be called horror movies), and its climax is much, much more absurd than that of “Get Out.” “Ready or Not” follows Grace and Alex on their wedding night as Grace meets Alex’s family and is forced to play a game. She has to draw a card and play whatever game the card tells her to, and while most of the games are harmless, there’s one that’s deadly: hide and seek. Upon picking hide and seek, the family uses medieval weapons they’ve utilized for generations to find and kill the spouse before dawn in the family’s historic mansion. What ensues is wild in every sense of the word, containing as much blood splatter as it does phenomenally-timed jokes. 

If you look a little closer, “Get Out” and “Ready or Not” are surprisingly similar. “Ready or Not” touches upon the inhumane ways of the wealthy, and how this fortune (and its fallbacks) often go back generations, much like how “Get Out” grapples with white culture’s historic oppression, and now fetishization, of Black culture. And then there’s the films’ biggest connection: their fear of the in-laws. “Ready or Not’s” Grace is terrified of her soon-to-be husband’s rich family, and “Get Out’s” Chris listens to his friend Rod’s over-the-phone warnings of white people decapitating and doing bawdy things to Black people’s displaced heads, fearing they may do something similar to him (which they, in fact, attempt to). Although very different movies, “Ready or Not” and “Get Out” both touch upon our anxiety that maybe, just maybe, your girlfriend’s family is literally going to murder you as you stuff your face with pot roast that her Aunt Janice brought in a Crock Pot. It’s an exceptional concept that hasn’t seemed to get old yet. 

If “Get Out” and “Ready or Not” are any indication, the next time you head over to your significant other’s house to hang with the family may be the last, so make sure to savor Aunt Janice’s pot roast before you become the pot roast. 

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