Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer(s): Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elizabeth Moss, , Aldis Hodge
Synopsis: Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Blumhouse has a business model, which might not be all that great, but it is effective nonetheless. They produce shitty movies on $5 budgets and just rake up the cash that follows. However, every so often, they put their faith in the right people to make actually great movies. It doesn’t happen often, and The Invisible Man might not live up to some breakout Blumhouse projects of the past (Get Out being the standout), but this film is one that this company needed in order to stay afloat for just a little longer.
In 2017, the release of the rebooted The Mummy was supposed to be the start of the “Monster Universe” from Universal Pictures. They had all the pieces in place, even with some cameos in The Mummy, with Johnny Depp slated to take a more well-known approach to “The Invisible Man” character. The Mummy bombed all over, 16% from Critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 35% from Audiences, and in the explosion, it took the rest of the monster universe with it. All of the characters parished, that is except for The Invisible Man.
With this release of The Invisible Man, we do not get the same story that H.G. Wells released in 1897. Instead, we get an updated and true to life version of this story that touches on real-world issues of today. Of course, an invisible murderer would have been an interesting story, but Leigh Whannell took a major risk in not telling that same conventional story. The story he instead tells is one that many people around the world feel every second of every day.
As a horror film, this film works tremendously, but the horror elements do not lie in the deaths or the jump scares. The horror of this film lies in the Invisible Man himself. Not so much on the physical being that is attacking Cecelia, played incredibly by Elizabeth Moss, but in the nothingness that derives from him. Cinematographer Stefan Duscio does a remarkable job of capturing the moments of nothingness but giving meaning to them nonetheless. There are times when Cecelia is looking at a blank wall, and all we see as an audience is that blank wall. We are not for sure if the Invisible Man is there or not, but the presence of Adrian Griffin, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and the abuse he caused to Cecilia is still there.
It never is and never was a story about the Invisible Man, but a story about how fragile and how much in need abuse victims are. This is driven home with the constant dismissal of her issues. Yes, we have to put it in perspective that there really was a psychotic invisible person who was attacking Cecelia and tormenting her life. But, the underlying tones of the issue at hand are still relevant. No one believes Cecelia when she says that Adrian is controlling her. The solutions other people give her are full of medication and therapy. No one offers to just be there for her until it is too late.
Elizabeth Moss plays this victimized woman with remarkable strength. You do not have to know anything about the film at all going into it, but you can quickly learn what she is going through just by how she acts. She encapsulates the constant fear and struggle of someone on the run from an abuser, and shows the audience how a victim of abuse is allways running. They never feel comfortable or safe in any situation, because of that fear that someone is always watching them just a few inches away. Moss delivers a tour de force performance that might not quite reach the ranks of Lupita Nyong’o’s from last year’s Us, but is on par with Toni Collette from Hereditary and Florence Pugh in Midsommar. Won’t rack up any awards, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get some recognition somewhere.
The writing is where this film falls off for me. The story was great, and the silent moments were much more impactful than anything said, but some of the dialogue was on the nose and cliche. There were lines in this film that just pulled me out of everything for a second and it forced me to readjust myself. Also, there were some slight pacing issues at times that did make the films begin to seem longer than its 124-minute runtime. Overall there are not a lot of logical things happening, and that shouldn’t have affected me as much as it did, but they were blatant. Scenes where a look at the camera would show that someone did or didn’t do something. However, the sound mixing was incredible, and the score follows the same notion of horror films just having knockout scores.
Final: The Invisible Man is a horror-filled, and honest, look at abuse and the invisible threat that remains. Leigh Whannell decided to go off-book and reimagine this film for modern times and it works. Stefan Duscio cleverly captures the frightening moments of nothingness that haunt the mind of an abuse victim, and give us all the feel that even if there is no one there, they are always just inches away. Some of the writing can be cliche and on the nose, and the pacing begins to lengthen itself with multiple pieces added in. However, Elizabeth Moss shines in a role filled with grief, pain, misery, and horror. The Blumhouse model strikes again.
Current Tomato Score: 91%
Current Metacritic: 71
Current IMDb: 7.7/10
Awards Prospects: Best Actress, Best Sound Mixing
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.