It’s been a few years since Universal attempted their Dark Universe with The Mummy. All things considered, it seemed to be a disaster in every sense of the word, which led to Blumhouse taking a stab at the monster-verse archive. And now, we have The Invisible Man. An unconventional reimagining of the classic story with a Hollow Man twist.
This time, the studio brought in director Leigh Whannell, who previously tackled the sci-fi shocker, Upgrade. And for readers who have not experienced that film, stop everything and see it now.
With Upgrade, Whannel proved he had the skillset to mix horror and action seamlessly. Not to mention, his approach made it feel like a sci-fi throwback in the vein of Paul Verhoeven and John Carpenter.
But did Leigh Whannel finally deliver a good monster-verse movie? Will this lead to a Dark Universe for Blumhouse?
The Invisible Man movie review: Should you watch?
The movie stars Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) as Cecilia Kass, who at the start of the film is trying to escape a toxic and abusive relationship with her millionaire boyfriend Adrian.
Once she does, she finds herself in the home of James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), who give her the warm and loving environment she so desperately craves.
As seen in the trailer, after she escapes the hell of being with Adrian, she learns that he has been found dead in his home by suicide. And his brother--who is also an attorney--gives her the news that he has left her $5 million, to be paid in monthly installments for several years.
And once she finally has the sense of safety she has desired for so long, small things begin to happen that make her feel as though she is being watched. And just like any abusive spouse or partner, this thing--Adrian himself – begins enacting a strategy to isolate her from everyone that can protect her without being seen.
The setup of the film is somewhat frustrating at first because almost every moment is given away in the marketing beat-by-beat.
Then once it becomes clear something is actually present with Cecilia, the film plays with those expectations and does something wildly different than advertised. Once the second act kicks into gear, the movie itself is unapologetically tense and never lets up on that tension until the final act.
Just before it flies into suspense overload, Whannel allows the audience to have this amazing scene of laughter and levity.--almost to allow the audience a final moment of relief before hitting the panic button. And it works beautifully.
The casting is stellar with Elisabeth Moss carrying the whole show. The entire experience rests on her shoulders to make viewers believe something is actually there. Without her, none of this movie works and her performance is unrelenting to watch as she gets terrorized by this invisible monster.
Oliver-Jackson Cohen--who plays The Invisible Man himself – is mostly recognized from Netflix’s amazing horror series The Haunting of Hill House. His role is minimal here because he cannot be seen almost the entire movie but the few moments Cohen is given, he absolutely sells the psychopath boyfriend role--and this will surely get him on Hollywood’s radar.
But what makes the film work better than the last few monster universe efforts is Whannel understanding that the audience needs something to latch onto. A hook to keep people invested in the horror. Riddled throughout The Invisible Man are strong parallels to real-life victims of abuse.
The man (or woman) wants to control every aspect of the victim’s life and that means having no one in their path. Sometimes these situations can go unseen for years until the truth comes out. And with Whannell’s script that is confidently conveyed.
Not everything works though because some of the film suffers from the main character making stupid choices, where a real person would never make such a decision. The best films have characters that are smarter than the viewer, and after telling people around you that your dead ex-boyfriend is following you around, eventually, something should tell the character, “I sound crazy.” And by the latter half of this movie, she doesn’t learn that lesson in key moments.
That being said, The Invisible Man is lifted by amazing direction from Whannell and is a masterclass on how to design suspense. This is one of the most nail-biting theatrical experiences since A Quiet Place and will leave audiences with high adrenaline long after walking out. The ending plays it a bit safe but the overall experience is well worth the price of admission.
The Invisible Man is now playing in theaters.