You can’t see the Invisible Man, but writer/director Leigh Whannell makes sure you can’t miss the theme of his new horror film. Whereas James Whale’s 1933 original was a fun, cheesy romp about a crazy guy who happened to turn himself invisible, Whannell’s “The Invisible Man” is all about the recognizable horror of how domestic abuse functions. Whannell cleverly recognizes that when abuse happens behind closed doors it affects not only the victim’s body but their sense of reality. The sci-fi elements move the plot along, but all of the tension comes from a desperate woman trying to free herself from her tormentor. The result is both nerve wracking and haunting. (collider)
Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is an architect fleeing from her abusive boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy tech genius working in the field of optics. Even when Cecilia escapes and lives under the protection of her sister’s friend and cop James (Aldis Hodge), she’s afraid to go outdoors. She then gets some seemingly good news that Adrian is dead from an apparent suicide and he has left her $5 million dollars. But Cecilia soon discovers that Adrian isn’t dead; he’s just found a way to turn himself invisible and is using his newfound power to abuse her further.
What “The Invisible Man” understands so well about domestic abuse is how all-encompassing it can be. It’s about making the victim live in constant fear while also doubting their own sense of reality, and so an Invisible Man is the perfect vehicle for delivering that terror. Whannell’s film can be almost exhausting in how much tension he holds on the screen as we wonder when and how Adrian will strike next. With Moss’ fantastic performance at the center, we completely buy into her fear and live in her paranoia. Scenes where she’s fighting off the Invisible Man would seem comic if we weren’t completely invested in Cecilia’s story. Thanks to Moss’ committed work and Whannell’s insightful, skilled direction, we fully buy into Cecilia’s disturbing reality.
It’s funny to think that The Invisible Man was originally going to be some blockbuster vehicle starring Johnny Depp and now it’s a relatively inexpensive Blumhouse feature that largely takes place in a suburban home, but the difference works wonders. It’s only fitting that a movie about domestic abuse takes place in a setting of domesticity, and when the film finally leaves the house in its third act, you kind of welcome the change of scenery because it means Whannell is finally releasing the tension he’s built up over the previous 80 minutes. I don’t know if going the Blumhouse route is what’s needed for all of Universal’s monsters, but it was absolutely the right choice for the Invisible Man. (collider)
I will note that The Invisible Man is not intended to be a “fun” horror film, and while there are the occasional jump scares, Whannell understands that his movie is scary because, like all great horror stories, it’s about something real. The subtext is so close to the surface that it’s basically text, but I’m okay with that trade off because people are going to head into theaters for what’s ostensibly a monster movie and get a crash course in an important social issue. Whannell has heard the insensitive question of, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” and responded with, “Because the abuser needs a victim.”
The Invisible Man is what I love to see from a horror movie, a story that’s not just chilling and scary, but thoughtful and insightful. This is what we should expect from the genre and I hope that Universal sees the potential in their other monsters to tell stories about social issues, or at least realize that if you’re going to make a monster movie, make it about something monstrous. (collider)
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of 88 reviews of the film were positive, with an average rating of 7.57/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Smart, well-acted, and above all scary, The Invisible Man proves that sometimes, the classic source material for a fresh reboot can be hiding in plain sight.”Metacritic calculated a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. (Wikipedia)
Compiled by Micheal Osuji
Featured Image credit to IMDb