“The Invisible Man” is the latest of many attempts by Universal Pictures to reboot their classic monster movies. The filmmaker behind this reboot is Australian writer/director Leigh Whannell, the co-creator of the “Saw” franchise and writer/director of the successful 2018 sci-fi/action film “Upgrade.”
This movie stars Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass, a woman who has escaped her controlling and abusive ex-boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) before he shockingly kills himself two weeks later. As strange events begin to occur to Cecilia, however, she begins to realize that Adrian is not dead and has actually found a way to turn himself invisible.
Although I have neither read “The Invisible Man” novel by H.G. Wells nor seen the 1933 film with Claude Rains in the titular role, I was still looking forward to this modern reimagining because the trailers were promising, and I enjoyed “Upgrade” enough to give Whannell’s next directorial effort a chance. After recently seeing this film, I can safely say that it mostly delivers.
First of all, this movie is incredibly well-made and most of that comes down to the direction. This film also comes from Blumhouse Productions so I was worried that it would be a barrage of obnoxious jump scares. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
Whannell proved with “Upgrade” that he can direct fast and entertaining action sequences and proves with “The Invisible Man” that he can also direct slow and suspenseful scares. With the help of excellent framing and cinematography, Whannell always finds a way to mine the most tension out of scene. He can often linger on a shot or, at times, slowly pan to a different part of the room—all while making audiences feel uneasy. His reliance on a wide lens and scenes with no sound also helps create a tense atmosphere. The fact that Whannell can make audience members scan the screen for something out of the ordinary is a testament to his filmmaking abilities, and he reiterates with this movie that greatness can come out of low-budget filmmaking, especially in the realm of horror.
Additionally, Elizabeth Moss is excellent in the lead role. Portraying a domestic abuse survivor is obviously a difficult task, but Moss pulls it off to the point where audiences are able to sympathize with her character when she is being terrorized by the Invisible Man while no one in the movie believes her. She also makes me believe that an unseeable force is attacking her, which is essential to the film’s construction. Everyone else in the movie plays their parts well even if they are not as developed as Cecilia, but that doesn’t really matter because Elizabeth Moss is the star of the show.
Even though this movie is not an original property, Whannell still finds ways to make it feel fresh and unique. For starters, an abuse victim not being able to see her old abuser is already a terrifying idea that fits in today’s social climate, and Whannell executes it well in this film. As Adrian continues to torment Cecilia, the audience feels more and more paranoid about what is onscreen. Whannell also asked Moss to look at the movie’s script so that she could give input from her own female perspective, which was a wise decision to say the least.
Unfortunately, the movie is not without its problems; many moments in the film bring up logical concerns that are hard to ignore. I won’t get into them for fear of spoilers, but readers will probably know what I’m talking about after they see the movie. I was also unsure about the ending, which I can see dividing audiences. I’ll leave it at this: it somewhat makes sense but still felt kind of hokey, at least on my initial viewing (my thoughts could change if I see the movie again).
All in all, “The Invisible Man” is a modern horror movie I would recommend seeing in theaters. Terrific direction and a powerhouse performance from Elizabeth Moss make this modern reimagining a welcome one. Whannell has proven himself as a strong force behind the camera and I look forward to seeing what he does next.