For the first time since 2017, when I watched Get Out in cinemas, I went to catch a Blumhouse production in theatres, whereas I usually wait for them to be released on digital to watch them in the comfort of my own home. What convinced me about Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, though, was that I truly loved the director’s previous movie (Upgrade, 2018) and the positive reception this film got from both audiences and critics.
I personally love the concept and the story behind The Invisible Man: I read the H.G.Wells novel and found it fascinating, I watched the 1933 original film a bunch of times, I’ve seen the British tv show that aired in the late 50s and I even got pissed at how bad the first remake (2000’s Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon) was. With this new take on such a played-out source material, I was both very excited to see what Whannell would bring to the table, as well as a bit sceptical and on the fence.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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The Invisible Man – a new story for new audiences
This new version of The Invisible Man treads over familiar territories and explores modern routes simultaneously. We follow Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss, Us), as she’s trying to get away from a violent, controlling relationship with wealthy optics scientist Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, The Haunting of Hill House). Receiving the news of the man’s sudden death, Cecilia is finally free: not just that, Adrian’s brother tells the woman that Adrian committed suicide and left Cecilia $5 million in his will. When everything seems to be getting better for Cecilia, however, strange phenomena start to occur, which leads our main character to believe Adrian is still alive and has found a way to become invisible and torment her.
As you might imagine, The Invisible Man 2020 opts for the angle of abuse, with the lead being scarred physically and psychologically by a husband who thought she was her property. After the #MeToo movement happened, Hollywood has been eager to exploit the whole situation by making pandering movies that pretend to be feminist, whether that occurred in superhero flicks (like Captain Marvel) or shitty horror remakes (like the new Black Christmas). However, this is not the case here: in fact, The Invisible Man is a very good movie where social statements don’t overshadow filmmaking and story. Actually, this movie utilises a dramatically realistic situation to enhance the horror aspects in the story, and it does that in an evident – yet, not on the nose – way.
Elisabeth Moss & Leigh Whannell elevate the film
Elisabeth Moss has proven herself as a great actor multiple times in recent years, but The Invisible Man solidifies her once and for all. Whether her character is supposed to cry or laugh, feel miserable or take matters in her own hands, Moss is able to provide a level of authenticity and relatability that are hard to come across in mainstream entertainment. Her character Cecilia is strong and empowered, but also very sympathetic. The dialogue written for her feels very genuine and they way Moss delivers it makes it all the more convincing. This has, however, more to do with the script.
Leigh Whannell wrote the screenplay and directed the film, and this is the best thing about The Invisible Man. In fact, the film oozes with personality, especially in the way it’s directed. The movie has very clean, polished shot composition and cinematography, even when scenes are shot at night. Even though The Invisible Man was made for “only” $7,000,000, this directorial choice makes it look much more expensive and improves the production values.
Mainstream horror done right, not flawlessly
Another aspect this movie excels at is the scary scenes and the action sequences, which are surprisingly bloody and violent. Using only jump-scares within the movie’s universe – and avoiding an overreliance on them – every spooky sequence in The Invisible Man is quite traditional but still rather effective. Following the success of Upgrade, Whannell’s new film relies on amazing action scenes and fight sequences that truly show great visual effects, impressive choreography and coordinated camera-work: the one-take shot inside a mental institution is, honestly, the best scene I’ve witnessed in any movie so far this year!
Unfortunately, other elements of The Invisible Man aren’t as effective or satisfying. The first 20 minutes of the movie, in particular, aren’t good at all: there’s one unnecessary (and fake) jump-scare, the exposition is really heavy-handed, the acting from everyone aside from Moss is wooden and forced, the music does a lot of the heavy lifting to imply emotions that simply aren’t there. In fact, the score is probably the worst aspect about The Invisible Man: it feels like it’s taken from the “stock soundtrack” catalogue and it’s often used inappropriately during some of the best scenes. Towards the end, there’s a reveal that feels both predictable and forced, just because the filmmakers thought the audiences wanted a plot twist of some sort. Also, there are a few plot conveniences that only serve to move the plot forward in a lazy way, such as when a guy leaves his vehicle because he had a minor concussion so that Cecilia can get in the car to catch up with the villain.
Despite its flaws and conveniences, the positives overwhelmingly surpass the negative in The Invisible Man, which I would highly recommend to both Blumhouse fans and those of you who seek for more indie stuff.
Personally, I enjoyed this film a lot and I would consider it the most entertaining version of The Invisible Man we’ve gotten throughout the years. I’m sure Elisabeth Moss will get better and better roles as her career moves forward, which is great. Yet, I’m very excited to see what Whannell will do next: I’m stoked to see him work in horror and strengthen his relationship with Blumhouse, but I would also love to see him work on a purely violent action film. I bet he’d do wonders!
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