I’ve always felt that less is more when it comes to horror. It’s about what you don’t see or what’s implied that makes something scary. It’s almost as if your eyes get a break and your mind starts to play tricks on you. It might seem counterintuitive to offer less in a visual medium such as film, but it heightens the experience; ask anyone who’s seen The Invisible Man and I think they’d agree.
The Invisible Man stars Elizabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) as a domestic abuse survivor. Her ex-lover is a millionaire genius in optical science, and he uses his technology to create a gauntlet of torment when she decides to leave him—there’s nowhere he can’t reach out to touch her or her loved ones. She found enough strength to leave, so now she must find the strength to survive.
Remove the sci-fi horror angle and The Invisible Man is a story we know all too well. Monsters don’t rise from the depths of Hell or the ocean. They don’t burn through the atmosphere to vaporize the resistance and eat your kids. Monsters live next door. Monsters live down the street. Monsters might be in the bed next to you. Leaving a situation psychologically is not the same as leaving physically. Pairing that all-too-familiar realization with a classic movie monster was a shrewd move. It ticks many boxes, right? It actually fits. Despite how good the premise sounds on paper, it still needs to deliver.
Writer/Director Leigh Whannel (Upgrade, Saw) stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. Elizabeth Moss has a gift for conveying both pain and conviction, and Whannel gives her all the chances she can get. She is often framed within wide shots and empty spaces—but are they empty? Mirrors no longer reflect what’s really there, do they? You have no way of knowing and neither does she. That seed is planted and the unknown becomes fertile ground for fear and paranoia. The latter third of the film releases that unbearable tension, unfortunately, and opts for standard thriller fare. One could argue that the release of tension fits thematically considering what transpires, but I was fine in that stressful head space; that’s scary to me. It’s the first two-thirds that make this film a cut above other horror films.
Universal Pictures infamously tried to reboot their classic movie monsters into a shared continuity, dubbed “Dark Universe.” If Dracula Untold and Tom Cruise’s, The Mummy were what they had in mind, I’m glad they scaled back. The Classic Universal monsters weren’t so much about fright than they were about exploring humanity anyway. What makes a man a monster? Can a monster show humanity? Some of them were sympathetic outcasts and not the raging super villains that the villagers perceived them to be. I hope this current iteration of The Invisible Man represents this psychological approach moving forward. Smaller, more intimate excursions into terror might be what the doctor ordered.
Recommendation: GO SEE IT!