(Very) loosely based on H. G. Wells’ timeless novel, 2020’s remake of The Invisible Man is about a woman who escapes an abusive relationship with a wealthy optics engineer and businessman but ends up being tormented by him after he develops a way to become invisible. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical before watching this as the last few movies/shows I’ve seen starring Elisabeth Moss have been pretty awful. Remember Her Smell?
But The Invisible Man ended up being quite a good film and broke the disappointment streak I have with Moss. If this keeps up, I might even become a fan.
Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes the home of her abusive and controlling boyfriend, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) by drugging him and running off into the night where she’s picked up by her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer). Afraid of what Adrian might do if he finds her, Cecilia hides out in the home of her friend, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Her fear of being found is eventually quelled when she learns Adrian has committed suicide and left a hefty sum of money for her in his will. Free of her ex and all cashed up, Cecilia’s future is looking promising.
But when strange events start to occur in Cecilia’s life that don’t make sense, she suspects Adrian is still alive and has found a way to make himself invisible so he can torment her without being seen. Naturally those around her find this assumption ludicrous and Cecilia is systematically made to appear crazy to those around her as Adrian does his worst to punish her for leaving him. With the body count stacking up, her sanity wearing thin and her list of allies becoming fewer, Cecilia must find a way to reveal and defeat her brilliant ex or risk being framed for the murder of those around her and permanently being put in a mental institution.
Elisabeth Moss gives a strong performance as a woman who finds herself in a whirlwind of emotions as she goes from one terrible moment to another. Her character’s stress and anxiety are felt immediately from the start where she makes her initial escape from her boyfriend and carries through as her nightmare worsens when the violence escalates resulting in the assault and death of loved ones and her being seen as the crazed aggressor.
With a strong script and great direction, her roller-coaster ride of fear, anger and retribution builds and builds to the point where you wonder how much more this person can take. How will she get out of this? Moss does a fantastic job encapsulating this difficult journey through strange, unnatural circumstances making her a great casting choice for Ceclia.
Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Insidious: Chapter 3) has made a great horror / sci-fi thriller that reminds me of traditional horror movies from the 80s, albeit with better production values. Instead of dazzling us with a monster early in a story, many horror classics relied on building tension and fear up slowly across the course of a story that focuses more on developing the hero character and this is exactly what Whannel has done here. Little by little, as the story unfolds, the horror escalates with tidbits of actions by the antagonist until finally it becomes a brutally violent visual spectacle that we’ve been eager to see.
Because the main villain is unseen, a lot of focus has gone into character performance and development as well as subtle interactions between the invisible man and his environment. Blink and you might miss it.
Apart from some inconsistent character development right at the very end with regards to Cecelia (I won’t ruin it but you’ll see), I found The Invisible Man to be a great modern horror reimagining of a story we’ve seen countless times before, but never quite like this. With strong performances from all the cast (Elisabeth Moss in particular) and great tension building storytelling, this is a film worth watching in the dark for those who like something that’s both really creepy and subtle at the start, then brutally violent when the you-know-what really hits the fan.