There is a difference between what makes scary/horror movies well, scary. There is the slasher/gore type that really aren’t scary, but serve a purpose. And there there is the kind that from the very first moment, have you on the edge of your seat/holding your breath type scare. These are the preferred kind. The kind that holds you in it’s grip with every one of your senses tingling in anticipation. Writer/Director Leigh Whannell’s “THE INVISIBLE MAN” is that movie.
Where James Whale’s masterful 1933 version of H.G. Wells‘ story saw its main transparent character commit murder on a mass scale on a self-proclaimed reign of terror, Whannell’s refreshing take on The Invisible Man, has gone for the opposite approach. It’s not just jump-scares or loud noises, it’s something psychological. From the opening shot, you’re immediately put inside Elisabeth Moss’ character Cecilia’s head. The whole opening scene makes you uncomfortable as we see Cecilia trying to make her escape and this kind of tension is kept on throughout the film.
Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) is a woman living in fear. She is stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get out of it despite living a life of wealth and privilege in a seaside home; she is ready to take some drastic steps in her life to try to escape from her controlling and abusive husband who despite being considered a wealthy genius in the field of Optics, has made her life a living hell. All of this combined forces her to make a daring escape that has her barely getting away with the help of her sister Alice (Harriett Dyer).
Picking us up two weeks later – we find Cecilia is in hiding with a friend of her sister’s, Officer James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is scared to even leave the house and do the most basic of things such as checking the mailbox. All this begins to change (or does it?) when Alice brings Cecilia some information that starts the ball rolling for us all.
So with now having supposedly escaped the controlling relationship, Cecilia’s rehabilitation is cut short by the sudden intrusion of her ex who has figured out how to regain control over her life without anyone knowing how or why. As it’s around this time that unusual things begin to happen to her. A lost item from the night of her escape shows up, a mysterious kitchen fire starts and lets the audience know to keep their eyes locked on everything as if you blink, you just might miss something cold and calculating happening. When she expresses her concerns to others that her husband is alive and exacting revenge, and when things begin to escalate, Cecilia is the one who starts to look more and more unstable as the tormenting continues and her life spins out of control.
Expertly utilizing sci-fi trappings to take gaslighting to a whole new extreme, (there is a restaurant scene that you will never forget) the film depicts first-hand the anxieties faced by many modern-day survivors of abuse. As Cecilia stresses to those around her that her genius scientist ex has become invisible, we are left conflicted by knowing the truth of her words but also the understanding that, without hard evidence, it’s hard to accept her story at face value.
By operating in that grey area, ‘The Invisible Man’ proves the horror genre to be one of the most effective means to reflect modern day anxieties to mass audiences. Another thing this film succeeds upon is the writing. The story progresses in a fast paced way which doesn’t seem hurried. The 2 hr. run-time feels achieved. There’s definitely more than one ‘WTF’ moment in this film to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. As well, the score and the sound design definitely puts you in Cecilia’s shoes as you struggle with her to point out where and how exactly these events are happening aka where this ‘invisible man’ might be. The camera work is exquisite, and the action sequences definitely feel thrilling and the way it’s shot makes you feel like you’re living it.
Lastly, make no mistake about it, this movie is Elisabeth Moss’s and she lives, breathes and takes you along for the ride as if you are living it right next to her. Hodge has always been a favourite and holds his own genuinely well here as does Storm Reid. And don’t feel fooled by the seemingly small part of Michael Dorman as the brother Tom or Cecilia’s husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as both have a surprise or two in hand for you.
Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“THE INVISIBLE MAN” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE