Review: The Invisible Man

Universal Pictures announced a shared monster universe that would include all of their classic monsters. After 2017’s The Mummy lost money at the box office (rumored to be somewhere around $95 million), Universal scraped the idea.

Just a few years later, with the help of Blumhouse, the horror remakes are back in production. The first offering is The Invisible Man. The H.G Wells story about a scientist that finds a way to make his body invisible gets turned on his head and is told through the lens of woman escaping her abusive boyfriend and the terrible things an abuser would do if they were invisible.

The film opens with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escaping from an abusive, controlling relationship with her wealthy tech boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). After escaping, she lives with her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). A short time later, Cecilia is informed Adrian killed himself and left her $5 million. The one stipulation for her receiving the money is she can’t get in any with the law.

Not too longer after his death, Cecilia believes she’s being stalked by an invisible person and that person is Adrian. As crazy as it sounds, Cecilia is telling people around her how Adrian is still alive and tormenting her. As a series of strange events around Cecilia turn from coincidence to lethal, she starts to wonder if these things are really happening or if she losing her mind.

It’s easy to have a different take on a classic horror story; it’s harder to have a smart take. It’s even more difficult to have a smart take that’s executed well. The Invisible Man is a smart take that’s done extremely well. The run-time is just under 2 hrs and there are no wasted moments. The movie opens with a tense sequence and the plot keeps tension amped up until the end.

There is no doubt Elisabeth Moss is a fantastic and she shows everyone why with this performance. She gives depth to Cecilia’s character as a survivor, detective, and fighter with her facial expressions. There’s a scene in the first act when James challenges Cecilia to walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. There’s real fear on Moss’ face and it’s different than the fear in the second act when she’s being terrorized by an invisible figure and she’s trying to put the puzzle pieces together. That look is different than the look she has when Cecilia finally realizes what she has to do. Moss is essentially playing three different characters and she plays them all well.

Aldis Hodge gives a good performance as the friend who makes the “I think you’re crazy but I’m not going to call you crazy” face. Hodge has star quality. He’s good in everything he touches from Straight Outta Compton, to Black Mirror, to Brian Banks. Hopefully this performance is one step closer to him becoming a household name.

Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) does an amazing job shooting this film in such an unorthodox way. There are so many scenes that include just a chair, a doorway, or an empty kitchen. Whannell creates a tense environment that keeps your eyes are fixated on an empty chair and you’re wondering if you see an imprint or if it always looked like that?  It’s such a brilliant way to visually tell the story because it sucks you in, frame by frame. By the third act, an empty chair at a restaurant is terrifying and a quiet Uber ride will have you on the edge of your seat.

Some moments in the film feel like a ghost story while others feel like an action thriller. They all blend beautifully together in this story about a woman having the courage to face her abuser.

The Invisible Man is one of the most imaginative reboots we’ve had in years. It’s suspenseful and entertaining. Telling the story through the point of view of someone trying to survive The Invisible Man is a brilliant way to do it. It pays homage to the original and is still able to find its own lane as a horror film. We can only hope the next horror film they reboot is as smart and impressive as this.

Grade: B+