Leigh Whannell‘s new take on The Invisible Man is good. Forget what you know about the proposed Dark Universe series that was planned. Forget Tom Cruise’s Mummy. Whannell knows that in order for horror to work, it needs to be, well, scary. With that intent, this new version of The Invisible Man is told from the victim’s point of view and the idea works wonderfully. Oddly simple, flipping the script puts the audience on guard and carries the scares throughout the nearly two-hour runtime. We are treated to an intense horror thriller that features a clever script, sharp direction, and a strong performance by Moss who carries the film with a broken, bad-ass resilience.
The pic starts strong, clearly establishing the threat. Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss) wakes at 3:42 am, amid her posh, austere master bedroom. Beside her is her controlling husband. Controlling might not be a strong enough word. As Cecelia methodically makes her escape, we realize just how much planning goes into running from a monster of this caliber. As tense an opening as I have seen in years, Cecelia narrowly flees with her sister’s (Harriet Dyer) help and goes into hiding by staying at friend James’ (Aldis Hodge) home with him and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). No time is wasted in explaining WHY her estranged husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is bad, he just is. Shortly after news arrives that her ex has killed himself and left her millions.
As those close to her rejoice, Cecelia incredulously accepts the money and soon begins thinking that his death may have been a hoax. She feels his presence in quiet moments at night, she sees figures out of the corner of her eye. She finds items laying around that were last seen at her old home. It is here that Whannell works overtime to make the audience paranoid with long shots of shadowy hallways or furniture that looks as if someone could be sitting, staring back at us. A nasty but efficient little gag.
Yes, things ramp up and we learn what really happened. But the audience is fiendishly strung along to the last minute, questioning Cecelia and her grip on reality. In the hands of another actor, this might have fallen apart into cliche. Casting Moss in the lead was easily the best investment the producers made as she gives an arresting performance and convinces us that we are seeing things that aren’t there. Or are they?
From a production standpoint, I am happy to report that this is a lean movie that uses effects judiciously. This isn’t a CGI mess of a film, but the effects are used to move things along, and very quickly I might add. Whannell knows when to punctuate a scene and when to let his actors do the work. Too, Whannell’s script doesn’t take easy cheats to keep the story moving along but he does seem to be eager to wrap things up in the final act.
The Invisible Man is a modern take on the boogieman. Paranoid and terrifying, Whannell and Moss bring horror fans a visceral horror pic that does the legacy of the Universal Monsters proud. The Invisible Man is a nasty, scheming villain crazed with knowledge and bent on control at any cost. This is smart horror that wants to disarm you and scare you and it’s one hell of a fun ride. We finally have a Universal Monster to be scared of again.
Read our interview with Whannell here.
8 out of 10 Stars