With Blumhouse relaunching a few horror film franchises, and reinventing what seemed like an exhausted genre with the likes of Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Get Out, I was unsure if this new take on The Invisible Man would keep that good work going , especially as the trailer seemed to suggest a specific focus. However, I’m incredibly happy to be wrong, and welcomingly misled by what I thought I knew, and in the finest conceivable way.
I’ll try to refrain from spoilers but what we get is a two-part film, one with the sheer unknown and fear of horror, with the other as a cat-and-mouse thriller that captures and enthrals right up to the finale. In fact, this is one of the best I’ve seen in a while and even though the cinematography has a huge part to play, and a smart use of sound and silence, it’s also an absolutely captivating masterclass from Elisabeth Moss that leads the way.
Directed by Leigh Whannell, and inspired by Universal’s original classic character, we’re introduced to Cecilia (Moss) in the opening scene, where it’s clear she’s set something up to escape, what we assume, is an abusive relationship. This is all led by the visuals, the story we witness and the tension that’s immediately ripe. We see Cecilia slowly slip out of bed, as her partner (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) sleeps, check his glass that she’s drugged and begins collecting her belongings in a huge, modern, open plan house. While it’s no spoiler that she gets away in this opening sequence, it’s done so brilliantly that you’re instantly hooked, especially when she gets in the car she’s arranged with her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) and you see her boyfriend running towards her to obviously try and stop her. It’s breathless.
With the aid of friends, she starts to rebuild her life after she learns of the death of her abusive ex but it’s not long before she begins to question whether or not he’s actually dead, complete with the very ‘sense’ of someone else in the room. It’s expertly developed and due to Elisabeth Moss, you believe her, rather than those around her thinking she’s seeing the ghosts of her traumatic memories.
The Invisible Man is a timely film as well, while the title might suggest what we used to think it meant, this version of the mythology is reinvented for a modern audience. The ‘man’ in question might well be invisible but when placing us in a world of domestic and psychological abuse, it’s a nod towards those men in the world who hide behind their power, whilst still abusing it. This is undoubtedly an allegory for that control that people use against each other, especially in order to undermine someone for your benefit. There’s an insightful discussion where Cecilia breaks down the evolution of how their relationship progressively changed and how he made her deliberately change little things in her life, until he had complete command. It’s terrifying because we know this is real.
The Invisible Man also excels on the visual side, with DOP Stefan Duscio, alongside the score from Benjamin Wallfisch (who has been consistently impressive recently) and sound. The use of silence is one of my favourite things, and still undervalued in many films, but here it’s implemented just at the right moments. On screen, there’s intensity from the beginning, with smart, gradual builds that really are uncomfortable (and watching from the side-eye) but complete with oddly satisfying payoffs.
Slick, encompassing shots juxtaposed with a colour palette of plain whites, greys and blacks helps create the atmosphere, giving it a slightly late 90s thriller vibe, think Panic Room in its stylistics, but it’s also very modern from Whannell and the team. This could well be my favourite of his directing work so far. There are also very strong co-starring performances from Aldris Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and the aforementioned Jackson-Cohen as her ex-partner, each bring their A-game in the story, with fleshed-out characters and vital moments.
The Invisible Man offers up genuine shock that isn’t afraid to show you how horrific a moment can be, but this is important because of what it’s portraying, this isn’t glorified either, it’s full of impact and intelligently done where Cecilia is shown to be a proper fighter, who builds herself up to take back what’s been stolen, which is her life. The ‘baddie’ has all those classic hallmarks once things begin to flip as well, almost super-human strength and energy but as Cecilia begins to get ahead of what’s coming for her, the whole film turns and she starts to take control of what’s going on, it’s naturally realised and you’re with her for every second of the fight.
Again, none of this is worth noting without the outstanding Elisabeth Moss, who’s not only shows us her character development from being pushed to her lowest point as a human being, but also as someone who realises this can’t define her life. It’s iconic. This is a great, tense horror and an incredibly taut chase-thriller, one of those that sits in the mind for a long time after viewing.
With this specific Blu-ray release, you’re also getting the uncut version of the film, completely with Uncut Feature Commentary from the writer and director Leigh Whannell.
Also, as you’d expect, there are the usual deleted scenes as well but as this is part of the classic Universal monster world there’s also a few others that are well-worth checking through including Moss Manifested, in which Elisabeth Moss discusses her involvement with the film, the script and progression of the story from her character’s perspective.
There’s also the Director’s Journey with Whannell, as he reveals his desire to not just do a re-make but how he discovered this version hadn’t really been approached before, and how much sense it made in today’s world. We get insightful discussions over a purposefully mis-leading title, or a reconfiguring and how 90% of being on a film set is standing in the wrong place (ha-ha!), it’s all insightful and interesting.
The Players takes us inside the world of the actor’s involved, especially Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s involvement, considering he’s a major centre of the film, his role is somewhat different in a filming sense. Finally, Timeless Terror gives us a little history of the Universal monster and how this time they wanted to do something original, taking it from the point of view of the victim, rather than the ‘him’ himself. Overall, all these really add to the experience and really proves that the type of horror/thriller films are the ones that hit home with a reality and The Invisible Man does it with smart richness.