Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man takes an old, far-fetched concept — human invisibility — and makes it seem totally plausible while giving H. G. Wells’ tale a modern spin. That being said, there’s a bit of an elephant in the room here: Yes, one might initially accuse this film of riding the coattails of the #MeToo movement, perhaps trying too hard to craft an abuse story. However, if we are to seriously entertain that critique, it might lead us to forget what a villain even is: An abuser! In this case, it’s an abusive person who can become invisible, which compounds the danger of the average abusive personality (which can be difficult enough to recover from).
Yes, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is the bad guy in this movie, and I would even say he’s a memorable villain. After all, he has developed an invisibility suit that lets him taunt his chosen victims and/or put them in the hospital. (or worse) Also, much like with the original villain in The Invisible Man, Adrian requires no authority to leave or enter anywhere he chooses. His invention lets him explore the depths of his sociopathic tendencies, and very likely tempts him into darker paths than he’d tread under normal, non-invisible circumstances. The character always risks believing that invisibility equals invincibility.
Make no mistake: Adrian Griffin isn’t the only reason to watch this version of The Invisible Man. Elisabeth Moss does great as Cecilia, who initially escapes Adrian and struggles to provide for her own security and peace of mind. As if the abuse wasn’t enough, Cecilia also doesn’t want to burden the family she moves in with — Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid).
Not only is Cecilia plagued by nightmares, but they seem to come to life. Moss’s performance never gets in the way of her character, which one can’t say for every quality film performance. She acts for the story rather than merely for herself. Not only was Cecilia negatively impacted by Adrian’s abuse, but also seriously affected by Adrian’s apparent death, and beyond. Every minute of the film acts as an increasingly high ransom demand for her eventual return to sanity. She also fears for the safety of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), especially after some disturbing encounters that Cecilia believes are Adrian.
I don’t wish to exaggerate how good this film is, because it won’t be for everyone. It’s obviously not as humorous as the original Invisible Man movie, which will put some off from it instantly. Still, in my view, there is a surprising amount of situational dark humor here, implied by the very invisibility that the sick villain flaunts. Some scenes might tempt the viewer to wonder if they’d behave themselves with such abilities, which is one of the great functions of the Invisible Man story, in general.
As another strength, all of what might be called “action sequences” or “fight scenes” seem organic to the story, whether it’s the disturbing restaurant scene, the prolonged fight in the psychiatric hospital, or any point between. It’s brutal but believable.
Through all of these scenes, we see how Cecilia begins to question her life choices and becomes estranged from everyone. Plus, there’s that Candyman dynamic where a sane victim is threatened with being committed to, well, let’s be politically incorrect and call it a “looney bin.”
By the film’s end, Cecilia has reinvented herself, much like this movie considerably transforms this old “trope” into a modern tale. Like some of the best horror films out there, The Invisible Man reminds us what it means when someone is tormented by her past, present, and possibly future. That’s what makes this a horror film, rather than just a drama with a kooky concept.
Have you seen The Invisible Man? Let us know in the comments!