Quick note: stay away from the most recent trailer. I’m linking to it here, but it honestly spoils almost the entire first half of the film.
Writer and director Leigh Whannell’s (Upgrade) modern day reboot of The Invisible Man is also an adaptation of the original novel written by H. G. Wells in 1897.
In the new Blumhouse Productions film, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) is in a controlling and abusive relationship with a financially successful scientist and tech entrepreneur named Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, The Raven). After finally working up the courage to leave Adrian, Cecilia relies on the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) and moves in with her childhood friend Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge, Hidden Figures) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid, A Wrinkle in Time).
Two weeks later, there’s news of Adrian committing suicide. After a visit with Adrian’s lawyer and brother Tom (Michael Dorman, Daybreakers), Adrian has left Cecilia a chunk of his wealth in the form of $5 million. Cecilia now has financial comfort and stability It allows her to start a new life, but she can’t help but feel like she’s being watched.
Cecilia believes that Adrian would never willingly take his own life and feels like he has never really left. She believes Adrian has discovered a way to make her life miserable without being seen. Meanwhile, everyone around Cecilia thinks the news of Adrian’s death is making Cecilia go insane.
Leigh Whannell has always been able to do wonders with a small budget, especially when it comes to jump-starting a new horror franchise. Saw had a $1.2 million budget, Insidious had $1.5 million, Upgrade had $3 million, and The Invisible Man has a $7 million budget. This typically means that the films Whannell is involved with can turn a profit rather quickly at the box office, which keeps production companies and studios happy. It’s also much more likely that these low budget films can have a sequel greenlit that much faster because of how successful it is.
How small of a budget The Invisible Man has is something to keep in mind when watching it because Whannell has found a way to dance around how much it costs to provide CGI and special effects without compromising the visuals or the film’s storytelling. Much of The Invisible Man is just simple household items floating in the air or people reacting to someone who isn’t on screen. But when those special effects do show up, Whannell ingeniously caters to the film’s budget by adding a story element that acts as a glitch of sorts for the Adrian character.
Cinematographer Stefan Duscio’s camera work on Upgrade is still so stylish, inventive, and cool. It’s one of the most talked about aspects of that film and is one of the reasons the film is as entertaining as it is. Seeing Duscio return behind the camera for The Invisible Man should be exciting for anyone who is a fan of Upgrade. The camera work in The Invisible Man has that element of following someone as they fall to the ground that Upgrade did so well, but it also expands on the technique. There’s a scene in the hallway of James Lanier’s home with James, Sydney, and Cecilia near the tail end of the film where the camera looks to be pointed down from the ceiling like a fly on the wall witnessing sheer mayhem transpire. It’s reminiscent of that staircase kill of Arbogast in Psycho.
In the original 1933 film, Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) is driven to homicidal madness thanks to the mixture of drugs he uses to become invisible; the main culprit being a fictitious drug called monocaine. As The Invisible Man, Jack kills 122 people over the course of the film. He’s obsessed with power and being this invincible god-like being now that he can’t be seen.
In the new film, Adrian has a brilliance similar to Jack’s (as well as his last name) but he’s already screwed up in the head in how he treats Cecilia. Adrian has a way of getting into people’s heads and under their skin. Even though somebody else is usually the victim, Adrian has a way of making himself look more victimized.
Adrian takes that mentally unstable factor that the original film gave to Jack and projects that onto Cecilia. Cecilia is the one that looks crazy throughout the course of the film thanks to Adrian’s actions. This is the reason Elisabeth Moss is as good as she is in the film. Cecilia is so desperate and broken throughout The Invisible Man even before Adrian’s supposed death. Her mental state is tested, stretched, worn thin, and eventually broken entirely. Moss delivers a devastating performance that is haunting, exhausting, and frustrating. As someone watching these events unfold, you witness both sides of how everything seems. Cecilia is attempting to prove that Adrian is doing something miraculous and you feel for her, but you can also see how she seems to others who don’t have that insight. There’s no definitive proof of Cecilia’s claims and Cecilia being labeled as psychotic or delusional is only human nature.
It’ll be interesting to see if the audience score will fall lower for The Invisible Man compared to what the critics think of it in the coming week or two. The film is two hours long and gradually plants seeds of hysteria that are in full bloom in its second half. The first half may seem slow to get going to some though.
Personally speaking, the film earns its thrills because of its character development and determination not to rush things. Most local critics really enjoyed the film, but regular moviegoers coming out of the screening were saying they wouldn’t have paid to see it. Currently sitting with a critic’s score of 92% and an audience score of 91% over at Rotten Tomatoes, it doesn’t seem to be an issue at the moment.
The Invisible Man is not only the first exceptionally good horror film of 2020, but also the first film of the year that is a must-see in the theater. Leigh Whannell continues his impressive streak of conjuring impeccable storytelling and creative special effects all on a shoestring budget. The performances in The Invisible Man are vital in its success and entertainment value while Elisabeth Moss especially is masterfully on the brink of lunacy for two nail-biting hours. We can thank the failure of the 2017 version of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise under-performing at the box office and shattering what would have been Universal’s Dark Universe. Self-contained stories are the way to go and The Invisible Man is pure expertly crafted tension that leaves you gasping for breath in all the right ways.
- Its thick, tense atmosphere.
- Creative use of special effects.
- Elisabeth Moss' performance.
- None really. May be slow moving for some.