Directed By: Leigh Whannell, Written By: Leigh Whannell, Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge & Storm Reid.
One of the factors I love most about horror movies is how they sometimes reflect issues that affect the world we live in. In this instance, the emotional and psychological abuse that some people weather in toxic relationships. The monsters in these films are exaggerations, sure, but it’s exaggerations that drive a point home most effectively.
The Invisible Man takes the damaged, abusive relationship factor and amplifies it tenfold. The film opens with Cecilia (a superb performance from Elisabeth Moss) executing her plan to escape her cruel and controlling boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). It’s a powerful and almost uncomfortable opening that sets the film up perfectly, as it has the audience rooting for her instantly and we haven’t even met the film's antagonist at this stage.
Once away, Cecilia goes to live with her policeman friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid). Cecilia is a nervous wreck. Still not convinced she has succeeded in escaping Adrian’s manipulative clutches. Each day she leaves the house in an attempt to retrieve the mail from the box at the end of the yard. Each day she gets a little further before the panic sets in and she races back inside. That is until she gets a visit from her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer).
Emily comes brandishing a letter stating that Adrian is dead. Cecilia is finally free… Or is she? It’s from this moment that the film turns up its creepy factor. Cecilia becomes convinced that not only is Adrian very much alive, but he has found a way to stalk her without being seen.
Of course, nobody believes her. They all think the trauma of her previous relationship has pushed her nerves to breaking point.
The films greatest asset besides its lead actress’s performance is the special effects involved in bringing the invisible villain to life. Or should I say, the lack of them? Don’t go into this film hoping for an updated version of Hollow Man. This film has other tricks up its sleeve to portray an invisible stalker, i.e. filling the negative space in a scene with nothing. Instead, you the viewer are forced to use your other senses in these crucial scenes when Cecilia is creeping around the house trying to prove she isn’t mad, like listening out for a faint floorboard creak or the sound of breathing or anything that will give away the unseen assailants position. It's an impressive technique for getting a cinema audience to shut up and become engaged in the action on the screen. I was so engrossed in trying to catch out the nothingness on the screen that I would become aware of having not breathed for many periods throughout the movie.
Of course, there are special effects involved in bringing the invisible man to life and they are spectacular, and all the more impressive as they are used so sparsely throughout the film. The premise behind Griffin’s ability to appear invisible is also more grounded in reality. We don’t have the ‘mad scientist drinks a formula’ as is usually the case. Griffin uses a technology that as far as I’m aware actually exists to this day. Although the tech on display here is far more remarkable and effective.
I want to gloss back over Elizabeth Moss’s performance. It’s wonderful and possibly the strongest performance I have seen in a movie of this type for many years. Moss, sells every scene, whether she appears hysterical and scared witless or determining that enough is enough and she would rather stand and fight than run anymore. The film may be titled The Invisible Man, but this is Cecilia’s movie and Elisabeth Moss does a brilliant job of putting the audience in her shoes.
I don’t think director, Leigh Whannell gets enough credit. Not only is he the brains behind the original Saw film but he also wrote and directed 2018s fantastic ‘Upgrade’. Whannell has crafted a strong, genuinely scary film, that not only serves to bring a fresh spin on a classic cinema monster but also acts as a very relevant take on the horrors of domestic abuse.
Everything from the way the film is shot to its magnificent atmospheric score by Benjamin Wallfisch works to only make the film that much more intense. I can’t speak highly enough of The Invisible Man. It will take a strong movie to knock this from my number one horror movie of 2020 spot.
If you’re planning on seeing The Invisible Man, I urge you to see it in a theatre if you truly wish to experience the nail-biting thrills this movie dishes up.