The Invisible Man character has been around in pop culture for what feels like forever, and in 2020, director Leigh Whannell treats audiences to a modern reimagining of the classic Universal Monster with great results.
Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia, a woman stuck in an abusive relationship who decides to make a break for it one night while her partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is asleep. She makes it out and seeks refuge at her friend James’ house, who also happens to be a police detective, as she nurses her emotional wounds in the days that follow. Not long after, Cecilia finds out that Adrian has committed suicide, and has left a hefty sum of money for her in his will. Things take a turn for the worse when Cecilia begins to suspect that she is being followed by an invisible entity, that may very well be Adrian back from the dead and out to traumatize her even further.
The strength of The Invisible Man lies in its ability to elicit a sense of dread from something you can’t see. Leigh Whannell does this by focusing on Cecilia’s paranoia as she begins to lose her mind, considering she’s the only one that can sense this invisible omnipresence. The film begins to waver slightly once it’s revealed that the Invisible Man is in-fact real, and the psychological-horror aspect of the film turns into more traditional monster fare. Despite that, there is enough in the film to keep the audience engaged and on edge through the majority of it.
Elisabeth Moss puts in an outstanding performance as the emotionally-scarred Cecilia and practically carries the movie on her back. Her portrayal of a woman under constant fear is absorbing, adding an extra layer of thrills to the already-thrilling tone of the film. Her role opposite an invisible presence is seamless, as if she is genuinely acting alongside a fellow performer. It’s this intricacy that she brings to the role that really sells the idea of the Invisible Man to the audience, giving the film a sense of realism.
Leigh Whannell has managed to breathe new life into the Universal Monster series without the need for a huge budget or blockbuster-caliber stars. He cleverly meshes the theme of domestic abuse with the feeling of helplessness first, then adds the Invisible Man character as a supporting element. This works by giving the film multiple angles in which it can hook its audience, unlike Universal’s first attempt at rebooting this series with 2017’s The Mummy, which was mostly uninspired, standard popcorn entertainment.
With The Invisible Man, Whannell has carved out a new blueprint for this classic series to follow, which should make for some exciting future films to look forward to.
This film marks the first in producer Jason Blum’s attempt to reboot the Universal Studios ‘Monster Universe’.