The Invisible Man is an iconic image. (Yes, that’s kind of an ironic statement, but it’s true.) One that hasn’t been tainted by thousands of iterations and reboots (save for 2000’s Hollow Man), interpretations and rule establishments. He isn’t made on a full moon, he need not drink the blood of his victims, and he doesn’t live in the black lagoon. He’s simply.. invisible.
After a lackluster audience and critical response to the Dark Universe’s inaugural The Mummy (2017), the rebirth of the Universal Monsters was all but dead in the swamp water. With the bed still warm and aching, Blumhouse was able to nip a monster property right out from under those scathing reviews — and they had an entirely new take. No universe. Straight horror. A full story from start to finish. No grand finale setups, after credit sequences, or universe building.
Their monster, The Invisible Man. Their movie? A cold, chrome, and suspenseful Where’s Waldo? for two hours and five minutes. Foes normally need to lurk in the shadows. But when you can’t be seen, the whole world becomes cloaked in darkness.
A cold, chrome, and suspenseful Where’s Waldo? for two hours and five minutes.
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, 2018), The Invisible Man is a film about escape. Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss, Us) very narrowly escapes the concrete castle of her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy scientist who goes from having it all; weird lab in the basement, sad girlfriend and dog trapped upstairs, house on the water — to being drugged and dumped, all in a single night. While Cecilia hides out with best daddy-daughter duo ever James (Aldis Hodge) and Sydney (Storm Reid), Adrian jumps ship from the train called ‘Life’ and commits suicide. His final wishes? Leaving Cecilia with his vast sciencey-garnered fortune clutched in the fists of his weasely little lawyer brother, Tom (Michael Dorman).
Things are finally looking up for Cecilia. She’s able to financially support her friends, scores a job interview at an architecture firm, and is starting to get her life on track. Free from the clutches of Adrian’s abuse. But abuse is cyclical. It isn’t something that can be quickly erased and wiped clean. The pain inflicted can haunt you forever.
Whether a manifestation of the suffering she endured, or something altogether more sinister, Cecilia begins experiencing a harrowing presence in her life. She becomes trapped in her freedom, Adrian lingering in the periphery of every action; making breakfast, showering, putting clothes away.
Invisible Man or none, Whannell captures that presence perfectly, giving screen time and attention to the empty hallways, corners, and chairs that occupy Cecilia’s mind. The camera wanders in quiet scenes, warning audiences a second ‘entity’ has entered, lingers, or waits. The Invisible Man can’t be captured by the audience’s eye, but the creeping camera knows he’s there.
With a foe we can’t see, the emotional weight of the abuse and torment weighs entirely on Moss, whose Cecilia is quite literally dragged kicking and screaming through her abuser’s sinister plot. Moss is refreshingly raw, bearing dark circles, red capillaries, and unbrushed hair in an age of snatched waists and deep fakes. She’s no noob to tough roles, after seasons upon seasons of hardship on The Handmaid’s Tale, nuclear-age sexism on Mad Men, and devious doppelgangers in Us. It is her continued ability to sink into these difficult and harrowed roles that make her one of my absolute faves. (Hey Blumhouse, can we keep her?)
While the abuse story at The Invisible Man’s center is captivating, it isn’t wholly original. This premise has fueled girls night’s for decades (or in my case, ‘Movie Nights with Mom’); we gasped for Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy (1991), cheered for Jennifer Lopez in Enough (2002), furrowed our brow at Mark Wahlberg in Fear (1996). As a horror fan and serial plot-chaser, I ultimately wanted more from the story. The Invisible Man isn’t without its twists, but as a whole, the story never fully derails from what we predict or expect. It’s as if Adrian is too busy occupying himself with poking Cecilia’s buttons and breakfast to ever plot more than two steps ahead of us.
Where The Invisible Man really shines is its constant, unwavering suspense. And for this reason, I fully recommend checking this one out in a theatrical environment. It is those slow and arduous nighttime sequences where The Invisible Man almost becomes a Paranormal Activity film (with a higher production value, of course). The audience is tasked to scan shadowy rooms endlessly.. hunting for someone we know we can’t see, but hoping he’ll slip up. Indent a curtain, bump a chair, tiptoe atop a creaking floorboard. And when he starts to make his presence known, we would normally feel relief. “Okay he’s here for sure. I know it now.” But we’ll never have the upper-hand. He could be gone in an instant. He could have been there the whole time. We were keeping watch, and we never saw him coming.
The Invisible Man is a stressful two-hour trip to the movies, but if you’re a horror fan – that’s exactly what you paid for. While a fresh iteration of the classic Invisible Man plot, the story is tried, true, and slightly tepid as far as thrillers go. But moment to moment, our Invisible Man still has some tricks up his Invisible Sleeve.