“A meticulously crafted thriller that breaks the chain of lackluster horror.”
Right from its title sequence, slick text brought onto the screen by crashing waves, it’s apparent that Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man is a wholly original take on what could be a stunted premise. The film opens with Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) attempting to flee the house she shares with her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Cecilia tip-toes around the house and flinches at any noise, hinting that the relationship she has with her husband Adrian isn’t all that loving. The first 15 minutes of the film are accompanied only by a few words, as Benjamin Wallfisch’s score whirs in the background, haunting synths telling us that Cecilia’s escape is one of dire need, and one that won’t go unnoticed.
After Cecilia escapes and finds refuge with her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), she discovers that Adrian has been found dead after a suicide attempt. It’s revealed Adrian has named Cecilia as one of his heirs, and should she remain mentally competent and free of being convicted of any crimes, she will receive five million dollars. Life seems to look up for a couple days, with only minor inconveniences like breakfast catching fire taking place. Then, bigger incidences start to occur: at a job interview, her entire portfolio is revealed to be missing, her sister receives a devious email that Cecilia doesn’t remember sending, doors open on their own, and finally Sydney is injured – which becomes the catalyst to the next two acts of the film. It seems that whatever – or whoever – is causing these incidents, are intent on Cecelia losing her right to Adrian’s will.
What could have been just another rendition of an old classic, turns itself into a story of a woman fleeing an abusive relationship. Even though the people around her try and convince her Adrian’s memory is gaslighting her from the grave, Cecelia never wavers on the fact that Adrian is the one causing these problems. A survivor of abuse knows the difference between actually being watched and the feeling of someone haunting you. Elisabeth Moss gives a stellar performance as Cecelia, perfectly conveying the anxiety and rage that comes with being an abuse survivor. She displays a wide-eyed panic that transitions into a hardened glare as the film progresses, and is the reason Adrian is such a powerful villain. For most of the film, we cannot see him, but the terror Moss convey’s allows us to feel her fear through the screen. The rest of the cast is great as well, with Aldis Hodge and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (in the small screen time he’s given) being the standouts among Moss.
The action in this film is another aspect that must be praised, with Whannell continuing to utilize the artistic flare that was showcased in the fight scenes in Upgrade (2018). In the third act, Cecilia is institutionalized for a crime she did not commit, and manages to escape her room, only for an unknown force (Adrian) to attack her and multiple security guards. The camera juts and follows the motions of the body it’s tracking, adding a visceral edge to the scenes. The audience has no choice but to become fully immersed in the camera movements, and almost become a part of the sequences themselves. Along with this, the stunt work is fantastic. Characters are dragged, choked and thrown around by an unseeable force, which could look cheesy if not for the choreography and the films VFX team. Not once is it unbelievable that these characters are being thrown across the room by an actual person, and not just being held up by wires.
The Invisible Man is a meticulously crafted thriller that breaks the chain of lackluster horror that the year has produced so far. It’s a tense portrait of a woman trying to reclaim her life after it was taken from her, and the after effects abuse can have on the psyche. Leigh Whannell has once again established himself as a gifted writer/director who clearly loves his job. Nothing is left untouched in this film: negative space is used to invite you to look deeper and to keep you on your toes, the sound design is sharp but never exhausting, and again, Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is haunting and impressive. While it takes it’s time, The Invisible Man is never dull. Instead, it lures the audience in with silence and familiarity, and when it has a firm grasp on you, grabs you tight and never lets go.