The Invisible Man
Directed by Leigh Whannell
Let's get this out of the way first, I know you're busy avoiding work and relatives and friends and a world gone mad. So let's get this out of the way - I like The Invisible Man a lot. How much? Well, it is among my favourite adaptations of H.G. Wells's 1897 novel. Better than Hollow Man and Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Gemini Man and most of the Invisible Man franchise that ran from 1933 to 1951 and the series from the early 2000s starring Fun Bobby. Heck, it might be my favourite adaptation yet. I'll get into the why and the what-not below, but for now, I'll let the rest of you get back to work and relatives and friends and a world gone mad.
And now for the rest of you, the why and the what-not of The Invisible Man. Thanks for sticking around.
What is The Invisible Man about? Glad you asked. The movie begins with a silent escape scene as Elisabeth Moss, playing Cecilia Kass, leaves her sleeping partner in the dead of night. Without words, just by the strength of Ms Moss' performance and the incredible camera work and blocking, we are able to infer all we need to know about this couple's relationship. The panic, the fear, the smooth and still paranoia-inducing camera work of this beginning section, it all works to put the audience firmly in Cecilia's corner for the rest of the film. After escaping his compound, Cecilia is in hiding from her former abuser in the home of a friend when she learns the man she is terrified of is dead. And then things begin happening and other stuff happens and sweet baby Jesus this movie had me on the edge of my seat.
There are so many things to love about The Invisible Man that it's hard to know where to start. So let's start with the Hitchcock influence. From Benjamin Wallfisch's electronic and strings Herrmannesque score to a shot of Elisabeth Moss with her hair up that looks very Kim Novak to the voyeuristic use of the camera, The Invisible Man is very much a love letter to Hitchcock's thrillers. Ms Moss could be a Hitchcock blonde in all the ways the movie finds to torture her psychologically and physically. It's exciting seeing Hitchcock's shadow loom this large, this far out. To see filmmakers that aren't named De Palma take the lessons and the important stuff from Hitchcock's canon and update it in new and thrilling ways. Leigh Whannell has created something special, something new out of very old cloth.
Also on the list of things to love about this movie is that it is maybe the most inventive and creative and fresh take on a story that is 123 years old. There have been a metric tonne of adaptations, but this is the first one told solely from the point of view of the victim, of the voyeured. Is voyeured a word? Well, it is now. This isn't us following around Claude Raines or Chevy Chase or Vincent Price or Fun Bobby. This is us spending 2 hours with the subject of the monster's obsession. There are moments where I found myself questioning whose point of view is the camera showing as it glides down a hallway, across a wall, looking through a doorway. Is it Cecilia's? Is it the monster? Is it the objective eye?
But none of this, the Hitchcock influence, the fear and paranoia inducing camera, the switch in the story's central character, none of this would really matter without a performance to centre it all. And Elisabeth Moss is more than up to the challenge. Ms Moss has always brought fathoms of depth to her characters. I first became aware of her on The West Wing, playing the youngest Bartlet daughter. And then there was Mad Men. This could easily turn into 6,000 words about the glory that is Peggy Olson so I'll just say and then there was Mad Men. I'm not going to get into that thing that she shares with Tom Cruise and Chick Corea, we're just going to talk about her work here. And the work she does in The Invisible Man is so good, it is so, so, so great, it's setting the high water mark for all performances for the rest of 2020. There was a time when we didn't get to see work this good in horror films but that time is over and we are all the better for it.
There are so many other things to love about The Invisible Man. I haven't even touched on the importance of sound to this film. The sound design and it's mix is incredibly important to a film with an invisible villain, it's how we know where the bad guy is. Footsteps trailing away to the left, a creek on a floorboard on the right, a rustle in the centre. All of this keeps us on edge with Cecilia as she tries to track her ex-abuser using the only tool available to her, sound. It's like a twisted take on Wait Until Dark.
But is The Invisible Man a good, you know, horror film? Glad you asked. If what you're looking for is fear and paranoia and edge-of-your-seat suspense, The Invisible Man is more than what you're looking for. On a scale from say, Breakfast Club to Aliens, The Invisible Man most assuredly lands somewhere around The Shining.