THE STORY – Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid).
THE CAST – Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer & Oliver Jackson-Cohen
THE TEAM – Leigh Whannell (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 124 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
Along with Jordan Peele and Ari Aster, Leigh Whannell (Writer of “Saw” & the director of “Upgrade“) has been one of the premier voices in horror these last few years. His latest, a re-imagining of H.G. Wells’ classic “The Invisible Man” in a post #MeToo era is his best effort yet combining excellent horror filmmaking, with timely themes and a devastating central performance from the always fantastic Elisabeth Moss. It’s a breath of fresh air to receive a genre film this early in the year and to have it stand out in such an important way. So important in fact that viewers should be warned, the content of “The Invisible Man” can certainly be triggering for many, especially those who have been in abusive relationships in the past, but for a movie that is trying to cut deep with its horror, it’s an unmitigated success in eliciting an emotional reaction from its audience.
Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) is a brilliant architect living in San Francisco with an also brilliant tech CEO for optics (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in an abusive relationship that she desperately needs to get away from. When she does finally break away from him, she is petrified to continue living her life as she feels he will use his wealth and power to find her once again. When she receives news that he has killed himself, she is at first relieved and receives a large settlement as well. With the support of her sister (Harriet Dyer) and law enforcement childhood friend (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter (Storm Reid), she is ready to move on. However, things take a darker turn when she begins getting tormented by an invisible force that she believes to be her ex. Is it though? How can it be? Will anyone believe her?
Made for under $10 million, the visual effects of “The Invisible Man” leave a lot to be desired as does some of the plot holes within in Whannell’s screenplay. However, with those two nitpicks out of the way, it frees me up to express to you that everything else about “The Invisible Man” is an absolute knockout from Leigh Whannell. Satisfying our desires for both horrific scares and human drama, “The Invisible Man” strikes many nerves regarding manipulating relationships, the psychological abuse they contain and the chilling psychological effects that we carry with ourselves afterward. Even with the knowledge that her ex is dead, Cecilia still believes that he will find her again somehow and bring her back under his control. It’s deeply upsetting, made all the more real by Elisabeth Moss’s empathetic performance that crosses over many emotions and takes us on a personal journey that touches on gaslighting, paranoia and trauma. Sometimes she’s even having to act opposite nothing, making this just as much of a physically demanding role as it is an agonizing one for her emotionally. It’s remarkable work from an unsurprisingly remarkable actress who keeps finding new ways time and time again to surprise us. While the rest of the supporting cast don’t get the heavy-hitting moments that Moss receives, the screenplay’s attempts to flesh out her relationships with her sister, her friend James and his daughter Sydney all go a long way in investing us in Cecelia’s story. All of their interactions feel genuine and are all anchored by Moss.
Leigh Whannell continues to use creative cinematic techniques to benefit the types of stories he’s telling. Much like his work in “Upgrade,” every camera move in “The Invisible Man” has a defined purpose. The editing is extremely patient, sometimes holding onto shots for an uncomfortably long time to maximize the dread and to forbode the inevitable jump scare. However, Whannell to his credit doesn’t overuse the jumpscare and instead relies more on the uncomfortable silences, shots filled with empty space and psychological horror to torment his audience. It’s all extremely effective and showcases his growth as a storyteller. The score and sound mixing also deserves a shoutout for helping to create this bone-chilling atmosphere all adding up to make “The Invisible Man” one of the best horror films to come out in recent years.
Universal Studios took the right approach by partnering with Blumhouse to re-kick their horror movie monster franchise with “The Invisible Man.” The combination of personal storytelling, with a stripped-down environment, and some virtuoso filmmaking has made for one terrifyingly memorable experience that will have many reliving their own personal horrors stemming from toxic and abusive relationships. I want to end this review by saying, we need to believe women. We need to believe their stories and if “The Invisible Man” doesn’t scare you enough into finally believing this reality, then the point of this movie is truly invisible to you and that may be the greatest horror of all.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Elisabeth Moss gives everything to this role and gets you really emotionally invested in the character’s traumatic journey. The sound mixing, score and camerawork are all excellent.
THE BAD – There are a number of plot holes that don’t make sense and the visual effects for the invisible man itself are pretty bad.
THE OSCARS – None