The Invisible Man (2020)
Director: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elizabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer
Synopsis: When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: R (for some strong bloody violence, and language)
Runtime: 2 hr 4 min
Release Date: February 28, 2020
"What you can't see can hurt you", goes the tagline to the new horror mystery The Invisible Man, a loose adaptation of H.G. Wells' 19th century novel. But as we soon learn, the invisible can do worse than kill--it can terrify and torture.
After a woman's (Elizabeth Moss) abusive husband apparently commits suicide, she begins to suspect that he's back. Well, sort of. She believes that he's stalking her somehow through invisible means, psychologically torturing her as revenge for her behavior leading up to his "death." And of course everyone believes she's crazy. After all, how could someone possibly come back from the dead and become invisible?
The Invisible Man feasts on the fear of the unknown and unseen. And I do mean, feasts--like a lion slowly devouring its prized prey. Leigh Whannell, who only has two previous directing credits to his name (Upgrade and Insidious: Chapter 3) shows off some masterful camerawork here, regularly subverting expectations and keeping you right where he wants you--on the edge of your seat waiting for the shock, which he delays until the opportune moment. It all reminded me of James Wan's high craft displayed in his 2013 film The Conjuring, which took a similar minimalist, old school approach to horror. And like Wan's film, Whannell also delivers a chilling atmosphere, which is vital, especially for horror films. It's an environment that's further aided by some crafty production design work for the interior of Cecilia's house, which lends an Alex Garland Ex Machina style feel to the film, and allows for plenty of reflections and refreshing camera angles to signify an unseen presence.
The real star and anchor of the film here is Elizabeth Moss, who simultaneously delivers a fractured and bold performance as a woman who's just as tormented about her past as she is her present. For the vast majority of the film, she's furiously trying to prove she's not crazy, that there is someone stalking her every move, psychologically abusing her since they can't do so by physical means anymore. The irony here though is that the more time the invisible person devotes to stalking her, the more Cecilia learns and is able to inch closer to turning the tables.
The first half here is far better than the second half, as the first focuses on slow burning suspense and horror, before transforming into a more conventional action film and showdown between Cecilia and her attacker. There's one point where it borrows It Follows and shows the invisible attacker dragging her around for several, prolonged seconds. It becomes painfully unscary and rather silly, undermining some of the suspense that came before it, but thankfully the film doesn't repeat the sequence.
The film isn't perfect; the first half is significantly better than the second, with the second settling into more conventional direction and containing some problematic plot points, but The Invisible Man is still a chilling, entertaining, even thoughtful horror flick, especially since it deals with serious subject matter like abuse that's currently at the forefront of the modern political landscape. And it's a strong showcase for Elizabeth Moss, who demonstrates that she's more than capable of handling a complex, layered role on her own. After her brief appearance in Jordan Peele's Us and now this film, we should fully expect her in more roles in this genre.
Written by Anthony Watkins, March 8, 2020