After Tom Cruise’s 2017 brush with The Mummy failed to jump start Universal’s Dark Universe – an MCU style franchise of connected films that was to feature rebooted versions of the classic Universal Monsters – the studio seemed unsure as how to proceed next. Their rogues gallery of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Gillman and others had been struggling to find a foothold in modern movies for years, with Benicio Del Toro’s The Wolfman and Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing having also being reduced to wreckage at the side of the road thanks to audience apathy.
Trust Blumhouse Pictures – home to such politically relevant frighteners as Get Out and The Purge – to swoop in, take maybe the least regarded of Universal’s monstrous menagerie, and knock out a home run by altering and modernizing the orginal story completely to fit in with today’s pressing issues.
Taking the original concept of a scientist stumbling on the secret of invisibility and then slowly going mad as he’s unable to reverse his condition, this version decides to tell the story of Cecilia, the emotionally and physically abused girlfriend of the controlling Adrian, a technical genius in the field of optics. Escaping from his highly toxic influence, she flees from his state of the art house (in an excruciatingly tense sequence – the first of many) and sequesters herself with her police detective childhood friend James and his daughter and gets to work trying to put her life back in order. It isn’t easy, as her ex’s influence has her scared to even walk to the mail box, but Cecilia is strong enough to build herself back up but then she gets word that Adrian has taken his own life and subsequently left her 5 million dollars in his will. All seems well but just as Cecilia has herself back in order, odd and disturbing things start occuring in the middle of the night and things go missing at inopportune moments. While some put it down to PTSD, our heroine becomes convinced that Adrian isn’t dead in the slightest and is in fact using his tech-genius to stalk her using a suit that renders him as invisible as Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy if he stands really, REALLY still.
As the fallout gets more intense and Cecilia finds herself on the verge of a complete mental breakdown, her loved one’s find themselves in danger – but remember that old saying: it’s not paranoia if there’s really an abusive, invisible boyfriend in the corner watching you sleep…
I’m trying to maintain an air of suspense here, but anyone whose seen any of The Invisible Man’s ad campaign knows exactly what’s going on (but it hasn’t managed to effect affected the impressive box office, so what do I know?) but if somehow you DON’T know what see-through, shenanigans occur then I suggest you assume spoiler protocol and witness the thing for yourself because what we have here is one of the best Invisible Man movies I’ve ever “seen”.
Written and directed with noticable Hitchcockian flair by Leigh Whannell (co-writer of Saw, Insidious and director of the criminally under-viewed sci-fi face breaker, Upgrade) The Invisible Man brings to the #metoo movement what Jordan Peele did for representation in the horror genre with Get Out. Taking all the themes of relationship abuse (physical, mental and a form of gas lighting taken to a horrifically ultimate level) and aiming it all through the deceptively more tolerable lens of sci-fi horror, Whannell has created a film that not only works as an extraordinarily successful bout of teeth-grinding tension (kiss your molars goodbye) but is also a timely reflection of some of the personality eroding horrors that some women have to go through every day.
Whannell is improving his craft noticably with every single movie and his ground floor remodeling of a classic tale that’s over a 100 years old has never felt so relevant. Where other, modern takes on invisibility have focused on putting the CGI-assisted bouts of empty air front and centre (Memoirs Of An Invisible Man and Hollow Man virtually based their entire run times around visually flawless floaty shit and ghostly outlines), Whannell chooses to slowly pan his camera to a seemingly empty corner of the room, mid-scene and simply hold the shot, creating an oppressive atmosphere of dread – inviting you totally into Cecilia’s “paranoia” and when said “floaty shit” does occur, it never fails to get a large, satisfying jump out of you that’ll spill your hard-earning confectionery all over the floor. It also helps that the movie is fiercely unpredictable (despite the trailers), especially after a jaw dropping, mid-film turn that had everyone in the cinema agog and that sends the story in a whole other direction.
The fact that the director manages to sustain this is magnificent but a massive amount of praise has to go to lead actress Elizabeth Moss who utilizes every inch of her body to convey the internal damage that’s been done by living with such a monster. Not exactly a “conventional” leading lady (I hate that term – sorry), Moss has an impressive back catalogue of seemingly meek women who manage to defy the odds of society around them thanks to bottomless reserves of strength they have in their being as seen in Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale.
But getting legitimate female representation right in a horror/thriller only counts if you engage with the film in general, and engage you do with Whannell encoring some of the zippy camera-work he used in Upgrade to track the concealed carnage as the invisible assailant goes on a rampage and theirs even time enough for a final coda that’s powerful, thought provoking and sure to raise some debate.
As startling and as noticeable as a surprise, unseeable hand on your shoulder in a well lit room, The Invisible Man is another feather in the cap of Blumhouse’s policy of inclusion in genre productions and it’s further, exciting proof that it’s director and star are more than ready to play in the big leagues thanks to crafting a scary, popcorn movie that deals intelligently with big, real world themes.
To be transparent, this Invisible Man is something everybody should try to see…