MOVIE: THE INVISIBLE MAN
STARRING: ELIZABETH MOSS; ALDIS HODGE; STORM REID; OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN
DIRECTED BY: LEIGH WHANNELL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It’s terrifying, absolutely debilitating to not be believed, to be accused of lying, or even be viewed as mentally insane. That crippling feeling, that cold sense of paralysis permeates all around Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, which is one of the scariest movies of the last five years, and the first movie of 2020 I would claim as excellent. Elizabeth Moss stars as Cecilia, a women trapped in an abusive relationship with Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a man who runs his own high-tech optics company. When Cecilia does everything in her power to escape, Adrian kills himself, that is until something, someone from beyond, starts harassing and haunting Cecilia. Working loosely off the universe that H.G. Wells wrote, the cinematic interpretation that James Whale and Claude Rains brought to life in 1933, and something entirely perfect for our current social climate, The Invisible Man is the scariest thing you never see coming.
Being someone that loves the horror genre, I am not one who scares easily. Walking into a movie of that genre, it is special when the scares are organically done, created with imagery, or an ever compelling plot, instead of overusing the often cheap jump-scare. When a director succeeds at scaring me, or has me squeezing my arm rests as tightly as I was for the two hour run-time, I call that a job well done. But Whannell far exceeds at scaring me in various moments, but it is the subtext of The Invisible Man that makes it a movie worthy of studying, and a master class in the art of cinema sound and score. The opening scene alone involves loud waves crashing upon a rock and is quickly followed by Cecilia’s attempted late night escape from Adrian’s mansion fortress. Nothing is told. No explanation. Just a trust in the audience that we can read the scene, read the fear on Elizabeth Moss’ face, and the haunting thought of what we cannot see. And that haunting continues with constant unease.
It’s not just the storyline that make The Invisible Man work, it’s the way it flows, like water rolling off a persons back. It my be a metaphor that strikes like a hammer over the head, but this is a film about domestic violence, about trauma, about believing women when they say that they are afraid. Even when Cecilia finds comfort in friend & police officer James (Aldis Hodge), along with his daughter Sydney (storm Reid), it’s the impact that Cecilia’s issues have on them, making the situation feel even more inescapable. Whannell, along with cinematographer Stefan Duscio, are aware that creating fear involves creating it in our heads. There are scenes where we never actually know if The Invisible Man was ever in the room, yet I found myself scanning the screen to see something. A flicker of dust, a wave of light, an outline of a body. The Invisible Man keeps you constantly on edge.
Along with the near perfect storyline, is another powerful performance by Elizabeth Moss. Last year The Handmaid’s Tale actor showed impeccable range for her work in Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell and she continues that trend here. Her character of Cecilia carries the fear behind her eyes, the trauma in a twitch of her hands, and the ferocity to fight off an attacker that she can’t even see. In roles big and small, Moss makes an impact. Her brief moments in Jordan Peele’s Us were chilling and an obvious precursor for what was to come in The Invisible Man. Playing the role as a victim of domestic abuse is never easy and the character of Cecilia is authentic, someone looking for a way to escape and will conjure up real feelings of a person being violated. Whannell traps us in a room filled with an infinite amount of outcomes and it will send a chill down your spine.
The Invisible Man is a rare film that has the slight similarity to the source material and creates an entirely new entry into the horror genre. It’s a movie that will wake you up to the horrors that victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and rape could ever feel. It’s an important message for a world that continues to follow a predatory president and not believe women when they share their traumatic experiences. Although I found the length to be maybe one scene too many by the end, I still have high marks, and can’t wait to see what Whannell will do next. The Invisible Man is visibly one of the best horror movies of 2020.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady