“The Invisible Man” stars Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Harriet Dyer. Released on February 28, 2020, the film is about a woman who is stalked by someone she couldn’t see.
The film is written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who also directed “Insidious: Chapter 3” and “Upgrade”. It is loosely based on the 1897 novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, and it is a modern reboot of the “Invisible Man” film series. Being stalked by someone can be a terrifying experience, especially if that someone is your abusive ex. Being haunted by someone who is invisible is a whole new level of terrifying…because you can’t flipping see where they are! We’re heading back into horror territory once again this month as we move away from our disastrous vacation that was “Fantasy Island” and into something that’s more psychological and heart-pounding. The Invisible Man, also known as Griffin, has been a part of the Universal Classic Monsters lineup since his appearance in the 1933 film. Known for his psychotic personality and his decent into madness due to his inability to reverse his invisibility process, this guy will make you wish that you are invisible as well so that he can’t see and catch you. The character has appeared in many different sources, including the 1933 film which starred Claude Rains as the title character and its sequels that featured different characters taking the title as the “Invisible Person”. This year sees the return of this iconic character, only this time, he won’t be wearing his bandages and goggles for you to see his face. This film was originally considered to be a part of Universal’s Dark Universe, a cinematic universe that consists of modern takes on the Universal Classic Monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein, but because of the underperformance of the “Mummy” reboot (the first film in the Dark Universe franchise), the studio shifted gears and decided to make stand-alone films based on the monsters. So don’t expect Russell Crowe to make a surprise appearance at the end of the film and talk about his encounter with the corpse of an Egyptian goddess. It ain’t happening. The film is now under the protection of the folks behind “Insidious” and the already-mentioned “Fantasy Island”. This marks the third directorial effort for “Saw” co-creator Leigh Whannell, who showed us that he’s comfortable directing the action in addition to writing scripts for horror films. I thought the third “Insidious” film was tolerable, and “Upgrade” was one of the best surprises of 2018, in my opinion. Can he pull off this type of success again with his take on the Invisible Man? Let’s find out.
The story follows Cecilia Kass (Moss), a young woman who’s stuck in a troubling relationship with Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy, but ungrateful, scientist who constantly abuses her for stupid reasons. Having had enough of his violent behavior, Cecilia successfully escapes with the help of her sister Emily (Dyer), her childhood friend James (Hodge), and his daughter Sydney (Reid). Sometime later, she finds out that Griffin committed suicide and left her a portion of his fortune. When Cecilia later discovers that she’s being haunted by a presence that’s invisible, who may be her ex, she attempts to uncover the secret of this presence and prove to her friends and family that she’s not insane. In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t your grandfather’s “Invisible Man”. This is the “Invisible Man” for a new generation of horror fans. What makes this film stand out from the other versions is not just the absence of the title character’s iconic bandages and goggles, it’s the fact that it focuses on the main character’s psychological trauma she received from an abusive relationship. This is another situation that makes me feel disgusted every time I see it on screen or hear about it on the news. It saddens me that a man would harm a woman and not feel any regret while doing it. It makes me want to punch them in the face, lock them up, and throw away the key. But enough of my personal feelings towards the subject matter, let’s talk about the film. In addition to the exploration of its subject matter, the film has plenty of R-rated horror elements that’ll make you want to check your surroundings more than once. This is the type of mixture that could go in either direction depending on how they handled it. Most of the recent modern horror films I’ve seen tend to put more emphasis on jump scares and genre cliches rather than combining them with proper narratives and thought-provoking themes, which is a common problem that the genre is still facing today. Fortunately for me, the 2020 version of “The Invisible Man” is not like those horror films. After giving me their sour piece of filmmaking known as “Fantasy Island”, the Blumhouse team was able to make amends for their mistake by delivering a well-executed and tension-filled reboot that combines its timely subject matter with some effective scares. Instead of relying so much on jump scares and genre cliches, Leigh Whannell used the film’s horror tactics to easily represent its depiction of women being traumatized and manipulated in dangerous relationships and the phobia of thinking that you’re being watched by someone who isn’t there. Both of these things are very frightening, and Whannell knows it. Aside from its runtime, which is over two hours long, and a couple of scenes that left me feeling puzzled, the story had enough twists and heart-pounding sequences to rise above the other 2020 horror films thanks to Whannell’s screenplay and his slick sense of direction. What’s even better is that it didn’t treat the characters like they’re a bunch of idiots. Cecilia thinks that Adrian is torturing her through manipulation while he’s invisible, forcing people around her to think that she’s mentally insane because of her trauma, which I thought made more sense. I believe that this element alone made the film much more enjoyable and believable rather than frustrating and silly. Elisabeth Moss was riveting in her role as Cecilia as she successfully manifested the emotional and uneasy personality of this character who has been through a lot since she escaped from her abusive ex. It’s the type of performance that could also work well in another film that also deals with psychological trauma. Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Aldis Hodge also delivered some solid performances as Adrian and James respectively. Another element that made the film work for me was its cinematography. The cinematography is one of the main stars of the film when it comes to its suspenseful sequences. The panning shots, the wide-angle shots, the one-shot maneuvers, everything about those shots looked so clean and smooth as if they were visible to the naked eye.
Overall, Leigh Whannell has made another successful directorial effort with “The Invisible Man”, a fresh take on the source material that’s nerve-wrecking, well-written, and entertaining. Thanks to its superb cast, its effective mixture of suspense and storytelling, and Whannell’s direction, this is a rare horror remake that doesn’t tarnish the franchise’s legacy despite its changes. It’s not a perfect horror film due to its runtime and a couple of flawed scenes, but those things didn’t bother me as much as the flaws from the last few horror films that I witnessed so far this year. Thank goodness. If they’re really planning on remaking the other horror films based on the other Universal Classic Monsters as separate stories, I hope that they make them as good as this. I would gladly recommend this film to those who are in desperate need of a good horror film this year.