MPAA Rating: R /Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller/ Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Amali Golden, Sam Smith/ Runtime: 124 minutes
I feel dear reader that the modern handling and treatment for the classic monsters from the crypts of Universal Studios has been an absolutely strange and bewildering ride to embark upon. Indeed I say this because although I understand that they have been trying to bring these icons of horror cinema back from the grave for “modern movie goers” it must also be said that between the sequels to the Mummy from 1999, 2010’s howling mad Wolf Man, 2014’s misfire at making Dracula an action hero that was Dracula Untold, 2004’s action-oriented Wolverine-led Van Helsing and 2017’s Tom Cruise-led Mummy film, the results truly have been mixed at best, and catastrophically embarrassing at worst to say the least.
Yet despite all the monster mash madness, I also feel dear reader that there is a silver lining to all of these monstrosities. That silver lining is the fact that honestly all of these prior attempts just simply manage to help showcase just how much joy it is to behold Leigh Whannell’s new take on HG Wells’ classic tale The Invisible Man and help it feel that much more like the astonishing home run that it truly is. Indeed it may have taken far too long for Universal to actually make a wonderful update on some of the most iconic characters in their library, but it was definitely worth the wait. This is because although The Invisible Man does possess specific tributes and odes to the original output of monster movies from Universal, this is still very much a fresh take and one which clearly has a story to tell that is both relatable for modern audiences, but still just as horrifying as ever.
The plot is as follows: The Invisible Man starts off by introducing us to a woman named Cecilia Kass as she is in the middle of pulling off a risky and bold escape. Cecilia, we quickly discover, no longer wants to put up with her emotionally, physically, and mentally abusive/ controlling husband Adrian, and so she makes a plan to sneak off in the middle of the night while he is asleep, and with help from her sister, leave him as far behind as she possibly can. It is no spoiler then to tell you that after proving successful in her escape attempt, we then move forward in time a couple of weeks as we see that Cecilia has been spending her time living in secret with her dear friend James and his daughter Sydney all while still possessing the fear that Adrian will still attempt to find her. It isn’t long though before her sister comes along with some startling news. News that takes the form of Cecilia’s ex-husband not only turning up dead, but that he also chose to leave a portion of his estate to the tune of 5 million dollars to her. Yet while Cecilia is at first relieved to hear the news, of course who wouldn’t be, she quickly starts experiencing eerie phenomenon that suggests that not only is her slimy ex-husband not dead, but that he may have found a way to terrorize her that will result in Cecilia going down a nightmarish rabbit hole on a mission to figure out how: not only how he is pulling this off, but also how, if such a way exists, to finally wrestle control of her life away from him, and get the chance to truly start fresh…..
Now I honestly feel that the main thing that truly helps make this rendition of this classic sci-fi tale truly work as effectively as possible is the fact that not only is the movie’s story actually a very unique take to the specific brand of horror that this particular monster provides, but also in how this take is then showcased in a very topical narrative. That is because when you really stop to analyze it dear reader, the very real and very palpable horror that the main villain is inflicting upon the heroine’s life is actually nothing more than what is known as gas lighting. Gas lighting, for those of you who don’t know, is when an abuser chooses to manipulate their victim and the world around them in the attempt of making them question just what is and isn’t real in order to maintain their control over the victim. Suffice it to say that this is already quite the monstrous thing to do to a fellow human being, but in the hands of this filmmaker I feel like he has taken this concept and made it infinitely more terrifying and bone-chilling than I ever thought possible for a major motion picture to even attempt to showcase, and the fact that it succeeds as well as it does is astounding in the best way possible.
To that end then movie goers, I definitely feel that this movie also does a wonderful job at showcasing a fresh and interesting take towards the concept of perspective. This is because after having seen the finished product, I really feel that there isn’t a moment in this movie where you should ever feel as if the film is trying to make you wonder if the main heroine might be hallucinating and just simply having experiences that either her mind altered or just didn’t happen at all period. Instead the director knows we have all seen movies like that before, some great and some not-so-great, and decides to try something different by putting us as audience members 100% in the camp of the protagonist and showing that her fears are completely justifiable. This of course proves to be an absolutely refreshing and fantastic change of pace since by doing the movie this way, not only is the fear on screen felt by you in the audience, but it also manages to make the treat of watching this movie, be it at home or in the theater, that much more terrifying to the point that you won’t be surprised to start looking over your own shoulder a few times while watching it.
Yet with that being said, I do feel that there really is a balancing act required towards pulling off a movie like this. This is because when you really stop to think about it the concept of a film possessing an invisible antagonist is one that would seemingly involve a lot more subtlety vs polish and style than the usual horror monster can come equipped with. With that being said though, this is most definitely a balancing act that this movie’s creative team manages to showcase quite majestically from a knife falling from a counter in an empty kitchen and yet never hitting the floor like it should to a hint of some breath in the cold seemingly appearing out of nowhere. Indeed it would definitely appear that this movie’s writer/director truly cherishes the knowledge that you in the audience will never be 100% sure of just when exactly the titular villain is in a room, and as such he takes great pride in letting your fear and anxiety soar through the roof. On the other hand, this is also a movie that when things do get kicked up to the level of actual mayhem going down it is also done in a way that is a marvel. Indeed this is because this director absolutely goes all in when it comes to the points where the Invisible Man doesn’t just lay dormant and actually chooses to attack. Indeed it is a marvel to me that this was made on a budget of just 9 million dollars because, from a visual effects standpoint, it just simply doesn’t look it, and I’m predicting that years from now on this will still be a movie that holds up in no small part to that brilliant visual effects work. It is that stellar.
Yet even though the take to this new rendition of this classic chiller is absolutely brilliant, and the camera work is sly and skillful, I still feel that unless you can relate to the main character those things will sadly mean next to nil. Indeed this is no surprise really; audiences always have tried to put themselves in the shoes of a film’s protagonist, and always will due to wanting to be as immersed in the experience as possible. I can happily then let you know that in regards to this film’s lead performance that Elisabeth Moss manages to give what, to date, is truly one of her most phenomenal performances within this film. Indeed in the hands of Moss we get a main character who although incredibly strong woman has been finally worn down and reduced to almost nothing after having gone through years of being told and treated as if she is weak and worthless, and it’s really wonderful to get to witness this character embark on an epic yet relatable quest in order to finally reclaim that which was unjustly stolen from her….even if in order to get it she is going to have to walk head on into a literal nightmare. Indeed it may be excruciatingly intense to sit through, but Moss manages to give us a performance that is just plain and simply remarkable for the kind of movie that this is to the point that even though the supporting cast all do great work as well, Moss manages to anchor the movie and really enable this movie to evolve from simply being very good to something truly special.
All in all it would appear movie goers that instead of attempting to establish any sense of connective tissue between movies or develop a larger franchise Universal has wisely decided to step away from that. Instead they have chosen that their new strategy for bringing the classic monsters that were the backbone of the studio in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s is instead going to consist of individual movies that are both truly terrifying, but that also serve as a loving and wonderful showcase for why people love these monsters as much as they do. It is with much joy and happiness then that I can truly say that if the majority of these films wind up being just as fantastic as The Invisible Man then it is distinctly possible that we might just have quite a few years ahead of truly remarkable, and reanimated, classic horror in the movies ahead of us to enjoy. Indeed this is because The Invisible Man is most definitely a true, if you will pardon the pun, must-see, and one you will want to add to your collection and see time and time again. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Invisible Man a solid 4 out of 5.