Sometimes you don’t always get the movie that you expect when you go into something…you get something better…
In giving the original H.G. Wells story a modern and socially relevant twist; The Invisible Man is an edge your seat trip down the rabbit hole of madness and manipulation and less of a traditional horror that leans on the gimmick and more of a believable one that leans hard into some incredibly believable terror.
Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid). But when Cecilia’s abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
This update of The Invisible Man really comes down to the old adage that “Less is More” as we get a mostly tight and fast moving affair that allows us to really get in the head space of it all. It’s less about what is going bump in the night and more about what we THINK is going bump in the night.
With some obvious similarities to the original material putting the focus on the female lead rather than the doctor is absolutely the right touch here. The script from writer/director Leigh Whannell unequivocally shows what he is capable on an even larger scale then we saw in 2018’s Upgrade. Taking very detailed care in crafting a world that comes from the cold of the laboratory to the warmth of a family friendly home is such a subtle but fantastic thing that allows us as an audience to let our hair down and truly get scared. There’s admittedly a little bit of fat that needed trimming in the middle act as it takes a hair too long to get to the conclusion, it’s hardly noticeable as Whannell puts us on a slow burning ride and isn’t afraid to let us go that is not only entertaining but disturbing as all hell. Go track down The Entity with Barbara Hershey and you’ll see what I mean as this film owes as much to The Entity as it does H.G. Wells’ original material.
Playing into the angle of an abusive and sociopathic husband who’s already nuts rather than giving us the expected makes all this all the more believable and hence, scary as all hell. What plays better in the real world; a mad scientist or an abused wife who thinks that her sociopathic husband is taking an elaborate revenge on her for leaving him…of course; it’s the latter and it takes us to the true lynch pin of the story.
It’s almost becoming a little common place to be writing words like “Elizabeth Moss gives a stellar performance” because she pretty well does it in everything that she’s in… but she does and she is.
As Cecilia she takes us down the dark rabbit hole of being a battered spouse unable to break free of her abuse, even when the abuser is supposed to be dead with not only sympathize with her and this is the genius part that Moss brings to the table, we occasionally even doubt her in the early moments of the film even when we see evidence to the contrary right before our eyes. Moss throws herself into the part with her trademark abandon which is what makes her so damn watchable every second that she’s on the screen. She’s carrying most of the work load in this film and she truly does it with ease.
Michael Dorman, Storm Reid, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer and Oliver Jackson Cohen round it all out well enough in support of Moss, but she’s the eye of this incredibly fun, scary (and pretty relevant) cinematic hurricane.
The Invisible Man is simply the best kind of horror movie out there; it’s the kind that you can actually believe in as it tries (and succeeds) in shaking you all the way to the core.