Universal’s classic monster movie The Invisible Man, directed by James Whale in 1933 and based on the H G Wells novel, was a hugely influential horror thanks to John P Fulton’s impressive special effects.
In 2020, this Blumhouse-produced reimagining, written and directed by Leigh Whannell, proves to be a success thanks to a smart script that takes its subject matter of domestic abuse seriously and turns it into a terrifying nightmare.
Elisabeth Moss stars as the film’s heroine, Cecilia, who we first meet running away from her tech entrepreneur partner Adrian, intimidatingly played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. After her escape, the long-term effects of violence persistently haunt her every move, even in the safety of close friend and cop (Aldis Hodge)’s home.
Soon after, she’s told Adrian has passed away but strange bumps in the night convince Cecilia that her partner’s death was a hoax.
Whannell sets a tense atmosphere from the outset which rarely lets up throughout the film. He clearly takes inspiration from Nineties thriller Sleeping With The Enemy; with the beach-side concrete mansion setting and inversed narrative about a woman faking her own death to escape from a controlling husband, the similarities are evident. It also avoids resemblance to Hollow Man by placing the focus on Cecilia.
As in his previous feature, Upgrade, Whannell employs some nifty fight sequences, and also blends science fiction and horror to hint at how technology can be used by egotistical, business magnates for ill gotten gains.
There’s been a surge of films about women reckoning with powerful men in the post #metoo era and The Invisible Man wrestles with the emotional ordeal of harassment and isolation. Stalking, gaslighting, aggressive behaviour, not being believed and the questioning of sanity are all touched upon. Even though some of these issues are not all handled with subtlety, the true horror of Cecilia’s situation is effectively conveyed with Moss turning in another gloriously edgy performance. The film gives her plenty of space to express a plethora of reactions as she rages against a chillingly real kind of monster.