Movie Review: ‘The Invisible Man’
Director: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer
Plot: Cecilia Kass has escaped from her highly controlling and abusive partner. In the weeks that follow she begins to suspect that her ex…a brilliant scientist…has rendered himself invisible in order to torment her.
Review: In what has become the Blumhouse standard, we have a familiar horror property with a tried and trusted director landing in cinemas to give us some solid jump scares. This time around it’s the Universal Monster classic The Invisible Man with dab hand Leigh Whannell at the helm. Surprisingly this new take on the concept, taking the perspective not of the ‘invisible man’ but their victim. It also surprises by not putting the focus on the CGI effects, but the character.
We open the movie with an immediately tense sequence where Cecilia (Moss) is trying to sneak out of her house during the night in order to escape her significant other. This is a very well executed dialogue free set piece that sets up Adrian (Jackson-Cohen) as a dangerous and terrifying figure. We see that he’s incredibly wealthy, has a brilliant scientific mind, is extremely paranoid and keeps a tight control over everything in his life. It’s only with careful and secretive planning and at great risk that Cecilia manages to leave the house, with Moss making is clear how much she fears him.
The terror of Adrian is unsettling close to the reality of abusive partners. Taking away the invisibility, his behaviour is textbook abusive, isolating Cecilia from her friends and family and managing her appearance and routine to ensure she can’t get away from him. This scenario adds an extra layer of fear when Adrian renders himself invisible using his own technological advancements, but the groundwork has already been lain in Cecilia’s mind. When she begins to claim that an invisible person is stalking her, it’s just as believable that she’s suffering the effects of PTSD.
Not that this is a definitive study is abusive relationships, or that it even says much about the topic, but it effective creates a grounded and genuinely scary monster in an otherwise routine thriller.
We found that the key to this movie is not to overthink it, because it’s full of holes. There’s some silly behaviour from character’s we think would manage themselves better. Some of this could be written off as being a product of fear or PTSD, but it can distract from the tension that’s been built. For the most part it’s predictable in spite of the effective tension of individual scenes. There’s also some real confusion about the relationships between the characters…we don’t know if the person Cecilia takes refuge with after feeling Adrian is friends with he sister, an ex, a work colleague…this is a big oversight.
Where the film really succeeds is when Cecilia is caught up in anxiety and paranoia. Whannell stretches these sequences out as long as possible and cleverly lets the camera linger a bit too long, or drifts off to the side of the room, or focuses on a window or doorway. Quite often these don’t amount to anything but you find your mind playing tricks on you as you carefully watch the screen for a small, out of place movement that doesn’t come.
If you want a straight forward but effective thriller, you’ll do a lot worse than this. Elisabeth Moss certainly sells the material. She has a lifetime of acting experience and she carries this film with ease.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN