Director: Leigh Whannell | Runtime: 2h 4mins | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cecilia’s (Elisabeth Moss) abusive ex-boyfriend suspiciously commits suicide and leaves her $5m in the process. When strange things begin to happen to Cecilia and the people around her, she suspects that he has found a way to make himself invisible.
Universal have been trying for some time now to rejuvenate their Monster Universe, attempting a remake of classic monster movies like Dracula Untold (2014) and The Mummy (2017). But the disappointing return on both seems to have put the ‘universe’ back on the shelf and allow more individualistic visions to arise. The Invisible Man is one of these, using the concept and turning it into a story for the 21st century. While it still maintains the title of horror, it’s not the creature that scares but the metaphor of a woman constantly fearing for her safety, something that has a strong place in today’s climate.
The film starts with a wordless and tense escape as Cecilia tries to vacate her rich boyfriends coastal house while he sleeps, constantly watching him on a security camera as she does. This sets the bar high for the rest of the movie, every step could be her demise and every sound could awaken her boyfriend Adrien. It’s so quietly intense that even the kick of a dog bowl rings louder than an air raid siren. With the bar set so high though, the movie continuously outdoes itself.
Once the movie is in full swing and Cecilia is staying at her friend James’ (Aldis Hodge) house, her paranoia is still extremely deep-rooted. When the invisible tormenting starts, it starts small. The first instance of this is when Cecilia walks out of the kitchen and the camera stays on a seemingly empty room, until the pan of bacon quickly rises in heat and eventually sets alight. Throughout the movie Whannell is delicate with the camera, rather than sticking with Cecilia the camera plays as if there were two people in the room. Focus changes, subtle pans, it all works for us to buy into a campy premise to begin with and by the end Cecilia’s paranoia becomes our own.
..this rendition is proof that effects have come a long way since footsteps in the snow.
Considering the first interpretation of the story came 87 years ago, it’s actually quite an exciting prospect to see how far the effects have come. Luckily for this movie it neither squanders it’s opportunities or overloads the film with a showy spectacle, it uses each effect wisely and builds tension considerably. It starts small with footsteps on a blanket, or even the aforementioned kitchen scene, until it’s ready to implode in quite grotesque way. A teenage girl gets hit in the face (a catalyst for James to reconsider Cecilia’s sanity), throats are cut, and guns are fired. The entire movie builds brilliantly, with an extra additive of message on top. You can’t take anything away from James Whales’ wonderful original, but this rendition is proof that effects have come a long way since footsteps in the snow.
The importance of this modern take is that while a horror, the most terrifying thing is just how much it fits into reality. Cecilia’s paranoia starts as a constant look over the shoulder, something that in recent times has become a norm for women in society. The next is the lack of belief people have in her, granted she is wailing about invisibility but the overall disbelief is important nonetheless. We’ve seen a lot of movies in recent years trying to give a voice to the voiceless, but The Invisible Man wonderfully does it while keeping within the confines of it’s genre.
The biggest downfall the film has is that it’s grand finale is a little out of character, a weak twist that eventually leads to a candlelit showdown that’s far too campy for the maturity the movie has been displaying. It’s comparable to 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), a movie that is near pitch-perfect until you reach the climax. You could see the campiness as a distant cousin to the over-the-top 30’s movie, but truthfully it feels completely underwhelming when you consider the high-level the movie has been riding on. As well as the ending the film seems to try to find attempts at humour, but really comes up short, and as soon as we realise the how, the movie does slowly decline until the credits roll.
The Invisible Man is an example of what happens when you put faith in story rather than the need for a universe, and despite the slightly underwhelming ending, the film consistently keeps style all while telling a story that’s close to home. Moss is sublime, and it’s directed wonderfully, using the camera to bring tension and belief to a concept with such over-the-top roots.