Leigh Whannell, one of the creators of the Saw franchise and director of the terrific overlooked thriller Upgrade (2018), has crafted a film that is much better than one might expect. On the surface this Invisible Man remake is a woke version of the classic H.G.Wells story that has been told dozens of times on screen. It tells the story from the perspective of a woman who leaves her abusive ex. Her ex then shows up dead from an apparent suicide leaving her in his will. After she inherits his fortune strange events start to occur which makes our heroine think that because her husband was a brilliant scientist at the forefront of optics he has found a way to become invisible and torment her after his death. That synopsis has been shown in every trailer that made this Invisible Man told from the perspective from a battered woman seem to be simply a movie of its era. The Invisible Man with a feminist angle for the post Harvey Weinstein age. Well, it is that to an extent, but Leigh Whannell’s Invisible Man is also one of the most absorbing thrillers to come to theaters in months.
The opening shot shows waves crashing into a rock at night. The camera pans up to reveal a house at the top of a cliff. This is where we meet our protagonist sublimely played by Elisabeth Moss as she quietly gets out of bed and plans her escape. This movie jumps right into the plot. No unnecessary moments to develop their abusive relationship, this is her movie and the audience is only getting her characters perspective. Moss gives her finest performance in a motion picture and is more than able to shoulder all of her characters fears and complexities for the audience to relate with her every step of the way even though the viewer is only getting her point of view. The other main reason why Invisible Man really works so well as a gripping thriller is because of Leigh Whannell’s direction. Throughout the film every scene is darkly lit with low key lighting and the cinematography often has a cold blueish hue. When the characters are cold, we feel the chill in the air. A huge portion of the best scenes in this movie involve waiting and watching, often looking at a screen with furniture and blank walls and no actors in the shot. This is surprisingly effective with how it is composed because the director is building the terror. The director uses silence and minimal music to build up terror and he does so very effectively. There are jump scares but whereas many lesser horror movies rely on them as their only method for fear, this movie builds them up and earns them. This Invisible Man is a slow burner. It creates suspense through its acting, cinematography, and atmosphere.
Thankfully this Invisible Man did not deliver what it could have been, a feminist, horror movie that celebrated girl power. It is not that at all. This movie is an engrossing and intelligent thriller that takes its time building suspense and is held together by an impassioned lead performance. It is never preachy or pedantic. This Invisible Man works is effective genre filmmaking and works as a metaphor for damaging and manipulative relationships. Plus the ending does not let our main character off easy and allows the audience to sit there once again in silence with their thoughts to digest the righteousness of her actions and not just walk out of the theater with a conventional crowd pleasing closure. This is the first film produced by Jason Blum that involves one of the classic Universal movie monsters. If they wanted to I would love to see Blumhouse produce more movies with those properties if they deal with them as astutely as they did here.
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