It’s really hard to pull off good monsters. It can be expensive, time consuming, and can take a lot of creativity. Then way back in the 1930s someone at Universal Studios got tired of doing Frankenstein-esque makeup and decided to say: “Fuck it! Let’s just make them invisible!” Thus came to the original Universal adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man in 1933 in this totally true story that you shouldn’t look up. There have been many attempts to recreate this classic movie but none have been held as high regard as this original film. Recently there was an attempt to bring back the character with Johnny Depp starring within Universal’s Dark Universe. A cinematic universe based around many of Universal’s classic monsters. That universe failed with a Tom Cruise led remake of The Mummy. The movie was considered a failure despite how much it made me laugh and the Dark Universe’s future has been questioned. This led to Universal opting to make a more stand alone film rather a franchise movie. Leigh Whannell the creator of Saw, Insidious, Dead Silence, and Upgrade then came in to write and direct. Whannell is someone that I very much admire. Even his more lackluster projects I can still some of the passion that went into it. No matter what you feel about some of his previous work, he is someone that loves what he does and loves the genre of horror, which I find to be very admirable. Also Upgrade showed how capable of a director he can be. If you haven’t seen Upgrade I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a perfect blend of body horror, action, and cyberpunk science fiction. So I was looking forward to his version of The Invisible Man. After watching it I can say that this is a very good horror movie and the best film of the year so far.
This version of The Invisible Man isn’t an adaptation of any previous versions of this story. Instead it takes the general concept and does it’s own thing with it. This version of The Invisible Man follows Cecilia (played by Elizabeth Moss) who is trying to escape an abusive relationship and then becomes haunted by an invisible force. It’s a fairly simple plot that thematically is entrenched in gas lighting.
There are many things that this movie does well. This is a very well written script. The way that the story progresses and escalates creates a sense of tense entertainment, and even the way it’s written makes even the minor characters feel alive beyond their scenes. Leigh Whannell’s directing is also great. He is most well known co-creating Saw (in writing, not directing) and for what is essentially known as torture porn. To be fair for Whannell, those films became much more extreme after he had left the series and I don’t think you can really blame him for what the Saw franchise has become. He has a love of horror that shows clearly on screen. Whannell also never relies on jump scares in the picture. There are a couple here and there but they are the kind where they are built up and earned. It never feels like the movie does a jump scare because it’s worried of losing the audiences’ attention. But most of the movie’s tension really just comes from the implication of what might be on screen and less of what actually is on screen. The film is set up for you to be looking for the villain which makes us constantly think about him without actually seeing him. It’s some very effective filmmaking.
Whannell has reteamed with cinematographer Stefan Duscio from Upgrade. Duscio has this way of moving the camera in these forceful and rigid ways that matches some of the uncomfortable positions that some characters are put into during some of the set pieces of this film.
The strongest aspect of this film is the acting. Elizabeth Moss is fantastic in this movie. She is able to get the traumatized nature that someone in her position would have but also she never comes across as weak. She is an extremely active protagonist who is smart and resilient. Also the supporting cast does a pretty good job as well. Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid as the father and daughter that take in Moss’ character were really memorable which is surprising considering how little screen time they actually have in the film. Oliver Jackson-Cohen is playing the Invisible Man this time around, that is to say he filmed a couple scenes and then did some voice over for others. In all seriousness, he is actually really good in the movie. In the few scenes he’s in Cohen is able to get this subtle psychopathic vibe out. It’s almost a shame that we don’t see him more, but we can’t really have that because it would make the antagonist less threatening.
As for negatives I don’t really have that many. As well as the script is written, there are some issues in it. Firstly, some people have been complaining about how the movie’s plot would’ve stopped if they had checked the cameras in a certain restaurant scene. I’m going to try to talk about this without spoiling it. I actually don’t agree with this complaint. I work at a fast food joint when I’m not sitting down at my laptop writing about movies while I eat and drink lard to make me fatter. I can say that the cameras that we have where I work don’t have the resolution to pick up what people are talking about and most other places wouldn’t either. When it comes to security cameras people tend to get good enough and not 8K resolution. Also when it comes to other people in the restaurant not noticing anything, there isn’t anything bringing attention to the main character in this scene (beforehand that is) and people aren’t actively looking for objects floating for a brief period of time. With all that I can accept that people might have a hard time with accepting some sort of invisible man being in this restaurant.
But when it comes to some actual script issues, there is another plot hole that has to do with someone not noticing a car in front of their house that they probably should’ve. But this is one of those things where the movie just needs it to be like this for the sake of it working out for the main character. It’s noticeable but it’s easy to accept.
Also I did have an issue with one of the characters. For the most part you do understand why people have a hard time believing Moss’ character. She is shouting about something that is impossible to be fair. But Harriet Dyer who plays the sister to Moss’ character seemed to be too quick in distrusting her own sister. I understand this was done because gaslighting and its effects are important to the movie but it felt like it was putting some of the blame on the victim’s friend. I don’t think that was the intent to be perfectly clear. The movie takes place all from Elizabeth Moss’ view so I can understand why it would be hard to develop this character. Also to develop this character maybe would’ve made the movie outstayed its welcome. The movie is about two hours long and when it comes to horror you have to be careful that your main pull never becomes boring. It’s very much possible that the film was being careful about this. With that said, we are still left with a very undercooked character.
Overall, this is still a really good movie. I really don’t know if I like it more or less than Whannell’s previous film, Upgrade. When I first watched Upgrade I really liked it, but I then grew to love it due to its many subtle nuances within its insanity as well. I can see maybe see this movie having that potential as well. But I still do really like The Invisible Man as it is now. There have been talks of reviving Dark Pictures and Elizabeth Banks has been confirmed to be directing The Invisible Woman. Whatever they do I hope they leave this film out of it. It just stands so well on its own and while it can always be viewed as a its own stand alone film, I do think trying to attach it to anything else would drag that new movie down because this wasn’t really meant to add to any other movie.
No matter what Universal plans to do in the future, I still recommend The Invisible Man to any horror fan anywhere. It will scare you, entertain you, and stick into your mind like any good horror movie should.