Review: The Invisible Man

There’s a lot to love about the most recent attempt to jump-start the heart of Universal’s monster films. No, I don’t mean the full “Dark Universe,” which tragically crashed and burned alongside Tom Cruise in that opening plane sequence of The Mummy (2017). Fyi, don’t bother watching the entire film…just be thankful you have me to tell you how terrible it was. The Dark Universe is still unconscious (although rumors are starting to swirl about a revival) but honestly I am okay with them letting rotten corpses lie if they can push out more films like The Invisible Man in the meantime. Because this film was great. It feels very intimate, which only serves it well as a horror film. I think they went a much better direction than originally developed with Johnny Depp set to step into the role as the invisible man. He surely would have been the focus of that film, starting with a dabbling of sciences, side-stepping into a discovery which he volunteers to test on himself, and eventually leading to his inevitable torment and turn into madness…oh wait, that’s Kevin Bacon’s Hollow Man. Whatever, the movie probably would have ended up as bad or worse, so I for one am glad they decided to take a hard left turn in a new direction. The focus on Elisabeth Moss’ character was what this film really needed and, like I already mentioned, has ultimately lead to it’s financial and critical success.
Cecilia (Moss; The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men) is in a bad relationship, tormented by all kinds of abuse from her billionaire-tech wizard husband. After barely escaping she receives news that her husband has committed suicide, but the moment of peace is soon disrupted by strange things happening…almost as if he’s still alive. But invisible. Ooooooh, spooky (no, it actually is). Little by little, Cecilia is either circling the crazy drain or there is truth behind her convictions that her husband has gone to great lengths to continue to personally haunt her from beyond the grave. But as her inner circle fails her, who else can she turn to? How can you stop an invisible force?
Unfortunately, if this film were called something different you could leave audiences guessing whether or not Moss’ character is delusional or actually being gaslighted by her invisible ex, because most of the events throughout a good half of the film could be considered circumstantial. But the titular character does exist, and so it eats away at some of that potentially underlying suspense. The terror remains though, and Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Saw writer) does such a fantastic job building and sustaining it. The opening sequence is one of the best suspense sequences in a horror film that I have seen in a really long time. Edge of your seat, holding your breath, jumping when sh…gotcha, not giving it away! There are exactly two perfectly placed jump scares in this movie, and neither are cheap throw-aways. Both are executed with purpose and at the perfect moment.
I would say that the writing and directing were what I enjoyed most, but I seriously cannot give enough credit to Elisabeth Moss. The way she moves, looks, and responds to the space around her is truly what makes you believe there is someone else there. Yes, the camera angles, movements, and empty shots are all very convincing and well-thought out, but her acting is the icing on the cake. Because in reality, IT’S JUST HER ON SCREEN. AND SHE TOTALLY MADE ME FORGET THAT IN THE MOMENT. Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Haunting of Hill House) is not wearing an invisible suit in real life, although in my mind I had moments where I seriously thought he was. For most of the film, Moss looked like a crackhead junkie due to the paralyzing fear and paranoia fraying her mind. I realize that it’s early in the year, but her performance deserves an Oscar nod.
As far as the actual plot goes, more than just the highly sustained tension, I felt like there was a perfect amount of how much happens to Cecilia before and after the first reveal of the invisible man (by the way, that moment was horror gold). As soon as I started to feel slightly pulled out of the plot and begin to wonder how long they were going to refrain from allowing her to see the things the audience sees, that’s when it switched. The suspense and thrill continued, but also it was her chance to begin fighting back, a much needed part of the movie. There were two minor plot holes, but neither really took away from how much I enjoyed this film. One thing I did like to see was that they cut specific moments that were given away in the trailer from the theatrical release. Yes, the trailer was good, but I think pulling certain ‘catch your breath’ moments was the right decision because it would have been overkill.
As a mental health professional, I would caution anyone with a history of abuse to steer away from this film (and others like it). Psychological trauma is a very real thing, and Cecilia genuinely struggles with her past for a large part of the film. Otherwise, I’m reminded of the famous Harvey Dent quote from The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” If this film initiates a Universal franchise, I can see them heading in that direction. Thanks for reading my thoughts on this monster film! I’m starting to realize that balancing several things at once throughout the week usually means that one or more of them suffer, so that’s why I haven’t been posting as much as I thought I would upon my return to reviews. I’m going to continue to try, because you bet your arse I have thoughts on things like Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (of course I’m using the original title!), Netflix’s The Witcher, Amazon Prime’s Hunters, and much, much more. Soon to come, cheers!

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