‘The Invisible Man’ // Film Review: Leigh Whannell’s Horror Reboot Will Mess With Your Mind

If I had the chance to turn invisible, a part of me thinks it would be fun, but it would also be difficult getting around everywhere without getting hurt. That’s just me. After watching the events that followed in writer/director Leigh Whannell’s re-imagining of The Invisible Man, which the story is based on the H. G. Wells novel, now I will feel pretty paranoid about my surroundings and made me question if anyone is following me.

What’s the Story: Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) has been trapped in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, The Haunting of Hill House), a wealthy and brilliant scientist, for a long time. When she receives news that he committed suicide and left her $5 million, Cecilia can finally breathe and can move on with her life with the support of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) and her childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). But as she starts her life over, she suspects she is being haunted by Adrian… but he’s completely invisible.

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man (2020)

The news that Leigh Whannell was going to director this version of this story intrigued my interest. This talented Australian has proved to be solid with his horror background as he co-created of Saw and Insidious with his friend James Wan. He already directed Insidious: Chapter 3, and he handled body horror with 2018’s Upgrade, which some consider underrated. Though I have watched none of the original monster movies from Universal, the one I’ve always been fascinated by is this character from the 1993 original with Claude Rains. I mean, a person becoming unseen and messing with people that will make the moon frightening of him.

But after the studio’s failed attempt to start a new cinematic universe with one of 2017’s worst movies, The Mummy with go as planned, plans for a movie with Johnny Depp to play the title role was quickly thrown out the window. Seriously, the second that they showed the logo for Dark Universe was so funny because it was going to be the only time it will be in a movie. The tremendous was still there in me since it’s produced by Blumhouse, and the last movie I saw in theaters was Fantasy Island, the worst movie of the year so far. This year hasn’t been kind to horror movies so far, but I’m happy to say The Invisible Man is much needed in the genre and felt different from the other monster movies out there, thankfully.

Whannell’s direction is the biggest aspect of the film that I should praise the most because I was curious about how he can make this concept not cheesy or cliché. His combination of horror/thriller and a little sci-fi twist helped it a lot. Any moment where the camera stays on a certain shot and pans away from Moss doing something made us believe someone is in the room, just waiting for something to feel uneasy. During multiple occasions, I had to look closely at scenes, trying to figure out if he’s there or not.

Because it involves producer Jason Blum, this only cost $7 million. How crazy is that to most some effects work? Most who have seen the trailer assumed it showed a lot, and I thought so the first time I watched it. But it doesn’t, as there’s more to be expected. Plus, there should be the mentioning of the beautiful cinematography from Stefan Duscio, and Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting score was put to use when it needs some music to fill up the scene right.

Elisabeth Moss in the role of Cecilia impressed me so much. She hasn’t been in a lot of mainstream movies since she’s well known for her television work in Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. Although she popped up in last year’s Us. But her performance as someone afraid of not knowing what’s about to happen was fantastic and was bought without thinking twice. If she didn’t give any effort in her performance, we wouldn’t care about her character. As she’s in this situation that doesn’t sound believable, you begin to worry about how Adrian will ruin her life when the possibility of the people around her won’t believe what she’s saying. Besides her, I thought the underrated Aldis Hodge did a great job in his role. And I can give a shout-out to Jackson-Cohen for his limited screen time as the title character.

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man (2020)

Even though this is labeled as a horror movie, it does a great job of providing suspense that adds to several scenes. The main antagonist is someone we and no one else can see, and it worked to a surprising degree. Because we don’t see him, the sound gets so quiet that you have no idea if he’s in the same room as Cecilia. What if he’s behind her? Or just standing in the corner? That fear of not knowing how a scene will play out is a credit. The times where there were jump scares weren’t forced and didn’t rely on them, but some unexpected moments occur that made me either look away or cover my mouth in shock.

The film also has a lot of say about abused relationships and how the stories women tell should be believed in. For someone who doesn’t know what being in a toxic relationship is like, that was an angle for the story that was interesting when I watched the trailer, and it’s shown prominently in here. You just feel awful for what Cecilia had to go through in getting away from Adrian, but not knowing where he is and tormenting her is even worse. Anybody who’s been there has felt that stress of having PTSD if a partner made you feel unsafe and can’t leave the house, knowing they’re out there watching you from afar. I didn’t think The Invisible Man would be the movie that fits into the #MeToo Movement, but way to be relevant. 

If there were any issues I took from the film spoiling nothing, there were certain moments from the script that I had to question how things happened, and it made for a couple of plot holes that probably make little sense. And while I won’t say the third act was bad since it was entertaining, it differed from the first two acts that had a slower build with its tension. Other than those slight problems, I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed this.

Its goal was to be thrilling, and it succeeded. Not since A Quiet Place, another movie that puts great use of having scenes of silence, has a horror movie that made me tense because of the storytelling it went for. Now, I’m nervous about the fact that geniuses are smart enough to turn themselves invisible. Imagine being in Cecilia’s position and being scared out of your mind.

Although it’s too early to think about next year’s Oscars, there’s a possibility it could land a Best Sound Mixing nomination, and Moss is the first actress this year to step into the Best Actress race. Sure, she would be in the same position when Lupita Nyong’o was ignored for her performance in Us, but she shouldn’t be forgotten, even if it is from the horror genre.

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man (2020)

A masterpiece? I wouldn’t say that, but after the failed monster movies Universal released like The Wolfman, Dracula Untold, and especially The Mummy, The Invisible Man is worth checking out. Whannell crafted a story that has been played out before, but this delivers a modern take that’s smart, tense, and suspenseful to the point of scaring you. Moss was amazing, and it’s definitely one of the better movies to come out this year. If this becomes successful at the box office, I’m excited to see what project Whannell is doing to do next. More contemporary horror movies like this, please.

Grade: B+ 

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