In The Invisible Man, the titular character – once a spooky Universal Classic Monster – receives a contemporary reimagining by writer/director Leigh Whannell.
Whannell has shown many times before that he loves horror and understands versions of the genre and its villains. From maniacal masterminds (reflected in his screenwriting in the Saw series and in Dead Silence) to sinister creatures (Insidious, Cooties). The Invisible Man marks a bit of a twist for the filmmaker. He’s once again leaning on the power of a psychopath, but applying the horror to a topical issue – domestic abuse – in hopes that the material will connect with audiences and evolve past its surface-level scares.
When her demanding boyfriend suddenly commits suicide soon after she escapes his abusive clutches, Cecilia (Us’ Elisabeth Moss) is apprehensive. Petrified and psychologically disheveled, she either doesn’t believe the news or fears it’s too good to be true. In the back of her mind, she reminds herself that he was a cocky, innovative scientist leading technological advancements with, really, no reason to remove his own existence. But a will reading and physical proof smothers Cecilia’s curious thoughts. However, she can’t help but feel haunted by him – as if his presence still looms over her. Is she still recovering from his unwieldy control or is he, in fact, still around?
Elisabeth Moss does an outstanding job identifying her character’s trauma and recovery process, and she goes the extra mile by using the film’s sensational elements to further flesh out her character’s psychological state. When The Invisible Man transitions from less subtle material into a loud and scary thriller, Moss maintains her development; adding convincing heft to scary moments that could’ve been performed more conventionally.
Whannell’s supreme talent to build on tension plays a key role as well. With patience, discipline, and well choreographed camerawork, Whannell allows the audience to become paranoid with Cecilia as well. Aside from some cool special effects, most of the film’s unease stems from quiet scenes that suggest something is creeping close by. While some of these moments are followed up by exciting fights and surprising visuals, Whannell still understands – and refuses to discount – the power of his audience’s imagination.
The Invisible Man is a fantastic horror movie that also works as an excellent showcase of how brilliant experienced filmmakers and actors can be.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie