As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This isn’t usually a comment on their quality or our willingness to enjoy them – sometimes, we’re just a little late to the party.
If anyone had asked, there probably wouldn’t have been much interest in another monster movie remake, especially after 2017’s disastrous take on The Mummy. Originally intended to tie in with that film as part of Universal’s Dark Universe, the original version was scrapped and reworked into a standalone story. Produced by Blumhouse and written and directed by Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man is undoubtedly a far cry from the quality of 2017’s The Mummy.
Starring Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass, The Invisible Man also features Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Jackson-Cohen plays Adrian Griffin, a wealthy and brilliant scientist specializing in optics. The Invisible Man starts with Cecilia silently fleeing Griffin’s home in order to escape his abusive behavior, only to hear of his apparent suicide weeks later. In the days and weeks that follow, Cecilia begins to suspect that she’s being stalked by an unseen presence, and that Griffin may have faked his death.
As one might expect from a film revolving around an invisible stalker, there’s a great deal of visual effects work at play. However, this is at no point obvious, and most of the effects needed are achieved with in a tastefully understated manner. Primarily, it’s a horror story about the things that can’t be seen, and The Invisible Man takes that seriously.
The Invisible Man touches on ideas of paranoia and post-traumatic stress, all through the lens of a survivor of domestic abuse. There are also some strong feminist themes, and an exploration of how the power dynamic in relationships is established and shifted. However, everything about The Invisible Man is driven primarily by the story, and that’s what makes it so gripping.
As horror movies go, The Invisible Man might be considered tame in certain aspects. There’s no monsters hiding in the shadows, because its monster can hide in plain sight, and that’s a large part of what makes it such a chilling film. What’s more, it fully embraces the effects of gaslighting on the human psyche, and it unapologetically hammers home a strong message on that front.
The biggest part of what makes The Invisible Man so compelling can essentially be attributed to Elisabeth Moss’s performance. She so brilliantly conveys the waves of pain, grief, confusion, and defiance necessary to bring Cecilia to life, and she does it so effortlessly that it feels entirely organic. Moss’s flawless performance as the haunted victim slowly develops into someone who has lost it all, and must fight to retake her own sanity. There’s something triumphant in the way Moss depicts Cecilia’s fight against her (mostly) unseen tormentor, and that only services the most chilling aspects of the film.
Ultimately, The Invisible Man takes a well-known movie monster and injects the story with a modern and pressing allegory that perfectly fits the character. Cecilia overcoming her aggressor and tormentor is a fight that a shocking amount of people will associate with, and that helps The Invisible Man to properly resonate with its audience. It’s a film that delivers one or two expected jump scares, but it’s the deeper levels to its story that are truly horrifying, taking the old adage of “man is the scariest monster of them all” to brilliant heights.
Summary: The Invisible Man is a perfect example of how to bring classic movie monsters into the modern age of cinema. It’s not overly flashy, but it’s well-executed and backed up by a blinding performance from its lead and a liberal dose of deeper meaning.
Highlights: The Invisible Man‘s hallway scene is excellently realized, but it also proves a pivotal moment for Cecilia and the turning point for the film’s narrative, which makes it work on multiple levels.