The Invisible Man
UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2020)
Director: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriett Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
“When you hear a sound, That you just can't place, Feel somethin' move, That you just can't trace, When something sits, On the end of your bed, Don't turn around, When you hear me tread”
Yes, it’s The Invisible Man. Once part of Universal’s disastrous Dark Universe, now very much its own movie, The Invisible Man sees Leigh Whannell, in his third directorial gig, taking on the classic character and splicing it with some very heavy subjects – namely physical and mental abuse aimed at women in certain relationships.
Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia Kass, a woman trapped in a harmful relationship by Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy, pioneering scientist. When she drugs him and escapes his clutches, Cecilia thinks the worst may be behind her – and when she discovers Adrian has taken his own life and has left her a slice of his fortune, things really start to look up. However, things soon start to go bump in the night, those closest to Cecilia find themselves in harm’s way and Cecilia soon begins to spiral into a dark, anxiety-ridden hell. It can’t be Adrian though? Can it...?
The Invisible Man starts with a white-knuckle escape and the claustrophobic grip of those initial scenes never really loosens. Whannell delivers a taut, tense, uncomfortable experience that only wavers slightly in its two-hour runtime – and even those moments are fleeting. Elisabeth Moss’ portrayal of an abused woman descending into the abyss of fear, paranoia and depression is both wonderful and harrowing – Moss commits fully to the role and the results are mesmerising. Comparatively, it’s in the same league as Toni Collette and Essie Davis for Hereditary and The Babadook in recent years. The actual execution of the invisible man and his 'form' is clever and just-believable. How Whannell uses the camera to fill the frame of every scene, forcing your eyes to wander and look for any clue or hint of the invisible man’s presence is masterfully done, as are the moments when the invisible man is in shot and causing havoc – it’s a great lesson on how to be effective in a simple and practical manner. The magic behind the invisibility was ever-so-slightly iffy, however, it’s probably the best explanation for an otherwise mad idea.
The atmosphere and tension is palpable, given the antagonist is...invisible, that’s to be expected, but there really is a strangling feeling to the movie. The horror aspects are effective and one set piece in a restaurant will leave you gasping in shock and, crucially, there are enough twists and plot beats to keep you guessing (given the trailer looked to have given some secrets away). The subplots involving Cecilia’s sister, Emily (Dyer), her friend James (Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Reid) add intriguing layers to the story that never feel convoluted or unnecessary – Whannell doesn’t waste an awful lot of his script or movie with fluff.
What started life as a Johnny Depp-led vehicle and part of an interconnecting series of movies ends up as one of the better horror movies of recent years. Dripping in everything a horror movie should be – atmosphere, scares, great characters and performances and, well, horror. The Invisible Man may have been low budget but it certainly isn’t low on quality. Superb.
February 29th 2020