Director: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen . Australia/USA. 2h 04m
So many years after the temptatious story of the Invisible Man by the legendary H G Wells, later made into a Black and White Classic by Universal Studios. The implausible idea of a chemical formula to make humans invisible has now been cleverly updated to an optical genius and a camera suit but why would we need such an application in this day and age? Infiltrating rival governments? To make an invisible army to take over the world or just a tool to torment an ex girlfriend who dared to leave a toxic relationship?
Leigh Whannell’s talents have been mingling in the horror sci fi genre for a number of years with his talents in writing utilized in Saw 1-3, Insidious 1-3, he later broke into directing with the courageous Upgrade (2018) and now a version of the Invisible Man that kinda does for Universal what The Joker did for DC, and much like the more real versions of the comic classics, Whannell has also earmarked a sequel and is promising a new Wolfman, which is half as thrilling as this, it will really be a right cracker. But with this new revival of older classics in a more real setting are we forgetting the allure of crazy science and imagination which sparked interest in these outlandish stories back in their day, are we being too grown up with fantasy horror stories?
Opening with a breath-taking escape, a woman executes a well planned scheme to knock out her partner and escape from their lavish high tech house, only for him to narrowly capture her screaming that she’ll never leave him, why on earth would she want to leave such luxury? Soon after this Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) intro, she’s attempting to live a normal life, while being baby sat by James (Hodge) a hunky cop and his adorable daughter, attempting to make her way to the post box each day is a struggle as she fears her “lover” is stalking her, Adrian, as a rich optical expert seems to display sociopathic and narcissistic tendencies within the relationship and Cecilia (Moss) just couldn’t take the physical and mental torture any longer but her woes are yet to begin.
After a visit from her sister with news of Adrian (Jackson-Cohen) suicide and a shaky meeting with his brother to discuss the fortune Cecilia has just inherited, she’s on the up, making plans to help James and attempts to get a job but something or someone seems to be making her life a living hell and making her look like a full on crazy bitch. It starts with the little things, then turns sadistic.
It’s all plain to the audience that an invisible man is going to (not) appear in the Invisible man movie and with the healthy host of previous movies we know all the tricks to look out for, puffs of breath in the cold nights air, footprints and breathing are all being looked out by any seasoned viewer but Whannell successfully adds in a well detailed plot and some incredible drama along with a throws a few curved balls to really elevate the movies intense thrills. His ability to disarm his audience with clever dialogue, sibling rivalry and annoying waiters allows him to slip in a death scene when you least expect it.
We very quickly start to love Cecilia and sympathise with her situation, but after years of abuse she’s not willing to be a victim anymore and goes all crazy Ripley-brave by the end of the film, but the magic always comes from the psychopathy of the bad guy. Invisible men over the years seem to all be crazy characters, Kevin Bacon lost his shit in Hollow Man and in all honesty I think there was a screw loose in Rodney (Tony Curran) in League of extraordinary Gentlemen, but none of them match the intensity and violence as the character in this film but the big mystery is who is it? We know Adrian the douchbag husband is dead , he committed suicide, so how is he haunting his wife? From the grave? Is it his brother or someone else?
There’s enough majesty in the movie alone with this dark revenge plot without all of the extra effects but when these really come into play it’s done with some slick Old Boy fighting scenes, the stand out moment for me is when Cecilia is in a mental hospital (that’s where you put people who see indivisible persons right?) and there’s a scuffle along a corridor which see people getting beaten, shot and tasered in a gratuitous manner, but does it just look more violent because you can’t see the attacker? It’s quite chilling, like a beatdown from a poltergeist on steroids.
Moss is excellent in her role, I can’t commend an actress enough when they are able to strip of the Hollywood glam and look and act like a normal person. Moss really displays a really believable woman who’s going through stress and possible PTSD but who is learning to fight back. the shock and disappointment of what’s going on is so apparent on her face, there’s no one moment where she lets the film down, she carries it every step of the way.
There are few parts of the film which doesn’t make sense, a few plot holes here and there but it’s nothing that would really derail the movie in any way. It’s not scary in the sense that it could happen to anyone, but if it was happening to you I’m sure you’d find every second terrifying and I wonder who would have the strength and cunning to get through this type of “attack” but while a lot won’t find the movie scary it does have this knack for getting inside your head, it’s just great stuff and I can’t wait to see if Whannell can carry this on for the sequel and hopefully match it with the Wolfman..
Related: The Invisible Man (1933), Hollow Man (2000), Wolfman (TBA),
Lists: Universal Monsters
Spotlight: Leigh Whannell, Elisabeth Moss
Article: The AOFA Short Introduction and History of Invisibility in Cinema