Rhys Parry-George reviews The Invisible Man (2020), Directed by Leigh Whannell
IN 2017 Universal Studios released ‘The Mummy’ starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella. The film was originally intended to be the first entry in an extended cinematic universe, one that would have pulled the classic Universal monsters, kicking and screaming into the modern day. And it appears that Universal had high hopes for the future of the franchise, not only casting Cruise, but also bagging Hollywood talent such as Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe for future instalments. However, it appears that the world was not ready for a dark universe, with The Mummy tanking at the box office and being the receiver of some particularly harsh criticism. After what was extensibly a box office bomb, it seems Universal gave up any hope of continuing the franchise. That was until news spread that a new ‘Invisible Man’ movie was in the works, and now here we are, with the film finally in cinemas and Universal’s reputation once again on the line. Is this the movie that will finally spark this franchise to life?
Well it could have been, if this movie was not the beginning of a whole new franchise. Yes it’s true, once again Universal and revamped their initial idea and have decided to create a series of stand-alone movies, ones that will tell modern reimagining of the classic Universal monster movies. And taking that into account, what we have here is a movie that beautifully reinvents the story of the Invisible Man for the modern audience, a film that is made complete with its sleek modern aesthetic and it emphasis on technological advancements.
The film follows Cecilia (played by Elisabeth Moss) who begins the movie by escaping from the abusive household of her wealthy boyfriend, Adrian Griffin. Finding refuge among her friends and family, Cecilia begins to recover from her trauma and move on with her new life. And it appears that things can only get better when she discovers that Adrian has killed himself, freeing her from his violent shadow. However, things soon take a sinister turn when Cecilia begins to believe that Adrian (now invisible) is stalking her, turning her loved ones against her and driving her to the point of insanity.
To begin with the best is to begin with the direction, or more specifically how director, Leigh Whannell, is able to build the tension of the scene. Although drawing out a scare is part of the course for mainstream horror these days, in this film the tension is believable because of the invisible nature of the primary villain. Even when the final blow has been delivered, you still can’t see what you must fear and therefore the experience becomes all the more enjoyable. The use of very simple effects, especially when considering the amount of CGI there was in The Mummy, is also done to perfection here. Something as simple as a knife moving of its own accord or a stove being turned on by thin air is enough to get your heart beating and the adrenaline running. The idea that the invisible man could be in the background of any shot leaves you unnerved and constantly watching the corners for signs of activity. However there are also issues here in terms of the films look and aesthetic. Sometimes the camera will pan away from the main action to depict an empty corridor, a shot that adds nothing to the scene or overall cinematic experience. In fact, the shots even come across as, dare I say, ‘artsy’ in their execution, as if the director believed he was directing the next awards contender and not a low-budget horror-thriller.
The cast of the movie also range in terms of their performance, making the film a bit disjointed in terms of the overall acting efforts. Elisabeth Moss delivers a strong performance as the character of Cecilia, however she does not inject the performance with anything new or ground-breaking. This is truly a shame because of the character of Cecilia is definitely an engaging one, and one that may have been more recognised if handled by a stronger performer. It’s also a shame to see Moss once again forced into the role of grey-faced empowered abuse victim, it seems her time as Offred on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, will now and forever loom across her career and the roles she is offered. Two other stand outs from the cast come in the form of Storm Reid and Aldis Hodge, who both do a wonderful job portraying Cecilia’s beloved support unit.
This film does sadly suffer in terms of its story, particularly as we are chased into the final act. After over an hour of build up and suspense, we are given a satisfactory and bloody final showdown, one leaves you questioning but pleased with the result. However, the film does not end there and continues to meander for a further twenty minutes, delivering a second showdown that personally left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Again it appears Moss has found herself the mascot of problematic gender conversations, with the film’s final message seemingly being that murder of a possibly innocent man is fine, as long as he’s also the man who abused you. I am not condoling abuse here, but the idea that killing your abuser and becoming empowered because of it, is a message that definitely has its issues. But the film doesn’t seem to notice this as it ends on a triumphant note, with a blaring score that feels like it belongs more at the end of a Oscar-worthy movie and not another Universal monster movie.
Overall ‘The Invisible Man’ is an enjoyable and suspenseful horror flick that wears it issues proudly and without concern. I would definitely recommend it to any horror fan looking for something quick and fun to see in the cinema this month.