Australian filmmaker Leigh Whannell (one half of the hive mind behind the Saw franchise) takes another trip to his genre wheelhouse with The Invisible Man. Having written many of the horror films directed by James Wan, Whannell has been slowly shifting his efforts into the directing field, now unveiling his third directorial feature as a contemporary reimagining of the Universal IP. The result is a horror film that the failed Dark Universe experiment by Universal should have been like.
Inspired by the 1897 H.G. Wells novel of the same name, this story takes elements from both the Invisible Man novel and 1930’s films and adapts them to exist in the world we know today. In the original story, a scientist named Griffin, who is consumed by his research in optics, finds a way to become invisible. Sadly his procedure becomes irreversible, thus beginning the terror and violent tirade of the Invisible Man. In this new version, the story revolves around Cecelia Kass (Elizabeth Moss), who starts off in a rocky relationship with tech entrepreneur Adrian Griffin (ring a bell?). After escaping his controlling, abusive and maniacal clutches, she lives a life of hiding, as Adrian instilled great fear in Cecelia. After hearing that Adrian has killed himself, her life can officially start over right? No!
Cecelia’s life soon becomes haunted and manipulated by an invisible presence that she believes to be her ex playing a sinister trick. Fully aware of his incredible technological breakthroughs, Cecelia knows that Adrian torturing her in the “afterlife” is a real possibility. However, she is met with little support from powers that be and law enforcement, both of whom believe that she is slowly going insane. Cecelia must prove that her Ex is still alive and using his otherworldly tech to ruin her life.
Elizabeth Moss delivers a great performance here and her ability to accurately portray a truly emotionally and physically disturbed human is The Invisible Man’s biggest highlight. I’d even go as far as to say that Leigh Whannel is to creating horror films as Elizabeth Moss is to acting in them. Her character’s mental state is constantly in question throughout the film and Moss’ performance supplies a level of ambiguity that keeps the audience guessing until the final second.
This film itself is filled with all of the things you expect from a horror movie. The jump scares and deep ominous score are there. But there are pieces to The Invisible Man that make it feel different from the average horror flick you go see and then forget about. I applaud the camerawork and movement, as it felt like they were implementing certain techniques to give dead space a heightened importance in the film. With one of the main characters being “invisible”, Whannell does a great job of making the viewer guess where this person could be moving throughout space.
However, just like with every horror movie, you’re eventually going to get the clunky stuff. It’s a fact. “Why don’t you just leave the house?!” “Don’t go up there!!” This movie does have its characters make those stupid decisions we’ve all come to expect, but they are played down successfully by the logic of Cecilia’s motivations. This horror, though it falls victim to some of the genre’s pitfalls, feels like it is taking the genre in a newer direction.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
The horror genre, in my opinion, tends to feel rather inflated, and truly good horror movies are few and far between. But The Invisible Man feels different, implementing new themes and technology that are not yet real but feel familiar. You aren’t afraid of a ghost but rather a man who has broken the laws of humanity using technology, a scenario that feels more and more possible as the days roll on. This is definitely a horror flick you don’t want to pass on.
But make no mistake; there are some clunky horror moments. One continuity error in particular stood out when Cecelia cuts herself and moments later there’s no blood or cut. This and a few other decisions took me out of the movie, but I was quickly reeled back in by the great acting, compelling narrative and creepy sound design. If there is one thing this movie got absolutely perfect, it’s the sound!