There is a lot riding on the success of The Invisible Man for Director Leigh Whannell. However, perhaps more weighs on the shoulders of the Invisible Man himself as a horror monster who is the first in the latest round of Universal Monsters reboots.
This film needs to be a hit for Universal Studios, Blumhouse, the monster, and the overall Monsters franchise. Judging by the box-office receipts this weekend, it looks to be a hit, at least financially. But is it good?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is… very yes.
Reintroducing the Invisible Man
Leigh Whannell (Insidious: Chapter 3, Upgrade) directs the simultaneous adaptation and reboot of H. G. Well’s novel and Universal’s The Invisible Man series. Whannel does double duty as well, serving as the writer. The film stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Harriet Dyer.
The Invisible Man has been in development roughly since 2007. In that time it has been attached to Johnny Depp and was considered to be a potential inclusion into a now-defunct shared cinematic universe that fell apart after The Mummy (2017). The project only truly took off when Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions stepped in and it was decided to update these classic monsters as stand-alone projects.
What Works about The Invisible Man?
The film works incredibly well as a re-imagining of a classic. It is very much in the spirit and tone of the work of H. G. Wells. It utilizes contemporary horror aesthetics and modern technology to craft the Invisible Man into a real threat for today. This is especially true given that the film is dealing with very topical themes of stalking, the abuse of women, and how women are victimized at the hands of powerful men. This film is a feminist work, through and through. A better #MeToo film that last year’s Black Christmas by a large margin.
A lot of the feminist energy of the film comes from the work done by Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass. Moss is one of the best actresses working today, becoming iconic across series like Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. She is fantastic in the film and very much the reason why an invisible person is so menacing. Her horror, exhaustion, paranoia, and own eventual menace is propulsive. It helps that Cecilia, a survivor of physical and psychological abuse is also incredibly smart as a protagonist. Cecilia, for as much as she goes through, only falls into true despair once and becomes galvanized to seek her revenge after a pivotal scene of an innocent falling under attack.
The plotting is very tight in the film and there were no real shortcuts to position characters to where they needed to be for the film to play out as effectively as it does.
The Predatory Camera
What makes the movie stand out beyond being a solid reboot is that it does some truly interesting things with this take. What is most impressive, though, is the staging and shots. The camera becomes The Invisible Man in a very real sense at times. It is never quite clear (until the end) quite where the titular Invisible Man is.
The staging just makes it clear he is there and it is chilling. It gets even worse with some of the tracking shots. It makes the viewer complicit in the stalking. It’s unsavory. It’s damn good.
What Didn’t Work?
The tight plotting of the film can be a detriment to some of the surprise of more trope-literature viewers. Beats that you expect to happen by the introductions of certain characters, scene arrangements, and one very transparent Chekov’s gun moment may reduce the overall shock of the film. This is, of course, barring a very satisfying moment with a knife that sets up the climax of the film.
Despite the importance of the Invisible Man throughout the film, the character is, to a great degree, a non-presence (queue the laughs). We get very little of Griffin as an individual beyond predatory menace and a rather illuminating scene near the end of the movie.
This is a film that I feel might have benefited from some flashbacks to establish the abusive history between Adrian and Cecilia. The film works wonderfully in subtext and Griffin looms large over everything, both as an invisible body and a psychological specter.
I just feel it would be interesting to dive into his character a bit more. But on the other hand, I do not want to take away a second of screentime from Elisabeth Moss, either.
I’d be very curious about the potential of a director’s cut.
Blumhouse Productions has managed to tackle one classic 1970s horror icon in Michael Meyers. With The Invisible Man, the sights were set further back and the studio has not missed a beat. If this film is indicative of the Blumhouse approach to future Universal Monsters then fans are in for a real treat.(5 / 5)
Please read about some of our other horror reviews here at Haunted MTL and share your thoughts on The Invisible Man in the comments.