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How to Survive a Horror Movie: A Guide By Grace From Ready or Not

Step One: Ditch the Heels

Does anyone remember when Claire in Jurassic World made the conscious decision to try and outrun a T-Rex in three-inch heels? Yeah. Grace would kick Clarie’s ass. If you suddenly find yourself chucked into a horrifying, life or death situation, make sure you have every advantage, starting with your wardrobe. Grace can’t do much about being stuck in her wedding gown (which, as far as gowns go, is admittedly pretty practical), but she can take thirty seconds of her time to modify it appropriately. Ditch the heels and tug on Converse instead. Skirt tripping you up? Just rip it! Who cares? Your in-laws are trying to murder you and sacrifice you to Satan. No one cares about looking pretty right now. Escape first, Instagram photo-op second.

Step Two: Keep it in Check and if You Need to be Hysterical? Do it Quietly

I’m all for everyone showing their emotions. Guys, gals, non-binary pals----sometimes you’ve got to cry and that’s that. Nothing you can do about it. The shock your body is going through upon witnessing a newly acquired family member getting their face blown-in is natural and we only have so much control over how we express that. But control does exist, minuscule as it is, so use it wisely. A hand over your mouth does wonders for stifling sobs. You can whisper accusations at your fiancé with as much intensity as you’d get from shouting them. The difference is that whispering is less likely to result in that terminal disease called death via murder. So keep your emotions in check... up until you’re discovered, anyway. Why bother keeping quiet if they’ve already caught you? Let the screams rip. If you’re lucky, you might make JJ Bittenbinder proud and throw them off their rhythm.

Step Three: Double Back on Your Hiding Spots

Do you know what’s horrifying? Actually, skin-crawlingly scary? Doing everything right and still coming out with the short straw. Too many horror movie heroines deserve their messy demise. If you’re going to be that stupid then this is basically just natural selection at work. But a heroine who is smart as a whip and ends up (almost) dead anyway because the world is just that cruel... talk about a chilling tale.

Such is the situation when you quite ingeniously decide to double back on your original hiding spot----who is going to think to look there? Not the idiots hunting you, that’s for sure----and find, not a cozy little dumbwaiter, but a cozy little dumbwaiter stuffed full of panicking waitress. (See: Step Two regarding hysterics). Is it our heroine’s fault that this woman can’t think straight, immediately betrays her, and somehow manages to get herself cut in half by the closing doors? No. No it’s not. She should be commended for her strategy. Excellent decision making with an entirely unforeseeable curve-ball. Bad luck is easily the scariest thing you have to watch out for.

Step Four: Find Yourself a Weapon

Does this really need to be a step? Apparently it does because too many protagonists out there forget that “flight” and “freeze” are only two of three options available. If you have the chance to get a-hold of a weapon, absolutely take it, and under no circumstances do you hesitate to use it. Look. I get it. Killing people is hard and stuff. All those ethical issues and the trauma to deal with afterwards. The key word though is "after." You won’t get the chance to debate your choices to the courts or twitter if you’re dead. A whole family out to murder you is not the time to stop and have a think about your morals. Instead, when the evil butler stands between you and the door to freedom, you level the shotgun you took off the wall and shoot him point blank.

Sure the bullets are duds, but again, that’s not your fault. Just keep making smart decisions. Something is bound to go right eventually.

Step Five: Anything Can be a Weapon

Like taking out the evil butler with a hot pot of tea to the face! Yes, most heroines aren’t lucky enough to be chased through a mansion already stock-piled with weaponry to use against her, thereby setting up numerous chances for her to steal such weaponry back. Most of us are stuck in the regular world with its regular, boring objects. You know what’s great though? Real objects are pretty lethal. If you’re desperate and have even an ounce of creativity in you. Anything wrapable is potentially good for choking. Anything with heft to it is head trauma just waiting to happen. Hell, have you ever gotten hit in the face with a door-----or worse, had someone close it while your fingers were still hanging around? The ways we can (and often do) hurt ourselves is pretty impressive. We’re done in by a well-placed Lego, for god’s sake. So use that to your advantage. Grab the steaming pot of tea when the shotgun fails and absolutely go to town.

Step Six: Ditch the Fiancé Too. He’ll be Fine

Have you finally escaped the hellhole that is this boujee mansion? Are you thinking about heading back inside to reunite with your fiancé? Do not. What is wrong with you? Get your priorities straight! Do you realize which of the two of you is currently being hunted like a particularly delicious boar? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the one whose family is desperately trying to get him to reunite with them. Which would involve, you know, keeping him alive. So he’s handcuffed to a bed now. Big deal. You leave him and go find the police. Who can then help you with such tricky things as freeing a man you now probably want to divorce. Jump from the second story, cut across the grounds, and do everything within your power to put whole continents worth of space between you and this family of his. The fiancé can kick his heels for a little while. He will, literally, survive.

Step Seven: Find Yourself an Ally

So you’re functionally on the run now. Well done. The problem with getting pit against a family of at least eight people is that they’ve, you know, got about seven living, breathing, murderous bodies to your single, terrified one. You need to even out the numbers a bit. Major roads are excellent for that considering that they often have living, breathing, non-murderous people driving on them. Squeeze yourself through the gate----yes it’s going to hurt. Yes you should get over it. Would you rather have a scar or be dead?----and flag someone down.

The catch? Major roads sometimes have living, breathing assholes driving on them too. I don’t know what kind of guy sees a beat-up woman in a wedding gown frantically screaming for help and thinks, “This is the perfect moment to speed away,” but he’s a less than stellar example of humanity. Sadly there's a lot of that going around nowadays. The point is you have to keep trying. Grab hold of every advantage. You never know which hope for safety might be your last.

Step Eight: Suck Up the Pain

We covered this a bit in Step Seven, but it’s worth repeating here. Now is not the time to get squeamish or start pulling back because something happens to be agonizingly painful. Get over it. We’ve all suffered through Monday mornings and get-togethers with that one family member no one can stand. You know I’m right when I say that the emotional pain of such situations is way worse than anything physical, so do a bit of mental comparison and get on with it. Climbing a ladder with a shot-up hand? Slamming said hand down onto a nail? Pulling yourself through an iron gate while it scrapes along your back? They’re necessary sacrifices and the heroine destined to survive their film is willing to pay them. As much as Mondays may suck, you want to be alive to see another.

Step Nine: Cars Are Your Friends

Cars are great! Cars are fantastic. I don’t care how much money the family hunting you has. How determined they are or what tricks they might have up their fancy sleeves after decades of ritualistic sacrifices. If you land yourself a car, you’re golden. Even the wealthiest murderers can’t catch up to four wheels and a full tank of gas. So if you have the opportunity to snag some transportation for yourself? Absolutely go for it. Strangle the hell out of that guy not just because he’s, again, trying to murder you (I can’t stress enough that at this point you have any and all justification to do whatever you like), but because he’s going to grant you your ticket out of here. Satisfying and practical.

Step Ten: Customer Service is Still Trash, but It Was Worth a Shot

At least, a car should be your ticket out of there. Remember Step Seven, finding yourself an ally? Yeah, sometimes that backfires spectacularly and not just in the, “You’ve left me in the lurch” sort of way. Calling for help is natural. It’s necessary and I’d never fault any heroine for giving it a try. It’s leagues better than the Just-Stand-There-And-Scream types. Being active is in. That being said, when you press the automatic roadside assistance button you may learn that the car you’re in has been reported stolen. Which technically, yeah. That’s true. But if you can’t steal to avoid getting murdered then when can you? Plead with the guy on the other line as best you can, but I wouldn’t hold out hope. There are procedures to follow and sadly those procedures don’t involve believing the hysterical woman when she says she’s using this as a get away vehicle----and not of the bank robbing variety. Modern technology may proceed to bite you in the ass, allowing Mr. So-and-So on the other line to remotely shut down your car, but it was worth it all for the attempt. We can’t control when life and men and customer service screws us over, but we can keep trying to even the odds as much as possible.

Step Eleven: Play on Your Captor’s Emotions

So you’ve dealt with betrayers, locked doors, deranged children, apathetic strangers, and the absolute worst luck to ever come out of a helpline. This is fine. Insert image of dog in a burning house here. Because you’ve still got your wits and really, what else does a girl need? So use them. Take that tiny thread of doubt lurking within the black sheep of the family and turn it into an advantage. Sure, he’s still going to knock you out, but you’ve planted the seed and, under other circumstances, it might just have grown into something useful. Another A+ for effort.

Step Twelve: Always Keep Moving—

In the literal "run for your life" way, absolutely. Always do that. I get that the biological response is fight, or flight, or freeze, but honestly I’m a little sick of the whole stand-and-scream shtick. So that’s a given. But you also just want to keep moving in other ways, even when you’re quite thoroughly tied down and the only thing squirming is likely to get you is rope burn. Because although luck (as established) often isn’t on your side... every once in a blue moon it is. Like if, say, the woman trying to bring a ceremonial knife down on your chest misses because you’re twisting and turning your heart out, resulting in her hitting that rope instead. Cue escape. Cue survival.

Step Thirteen: —and Never Give Up

It’s a one-in-a-thousand chance. But that’s what you've been waiting for! You have to stay smart and stay determined; the universe isn’t going to hand you many opportunities, so you have to grab the ones you get and never let go. Being a Final Girl-----or the 2019 equivalent-----isn't easy, but if you hang in there (sometimes literally), get creative, and most importantly keep your wits about you, you'll make it through your own horror movie in the end. You've earned that sit-down on the front steps, smoking a cigarette and bitching about your in-laws. Well done.

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