Even with a front man like Tom Cruise leading the charge, Universal’s biggest misstep of late was its plans for the Dark Universe. Their efforts for an MCBOO-type franchise with classic monsters at its core – one of which was The Invisible Man – was bursting with possibility. Instead, we got a box-office bomb straight out the gate led to it quickly being closed. It’s nothing new, of course. Failed franchises are the Hollywood equivalent of independent coffee shops; not all are going to make it. What’s been a major surprise, is how quickly the studio worked damage control, returning to the well of iconic-antagonists and recovering with a hit no one saw coming.
Rather than going in the fantastical explosive area the deceased Dark Universe bumbled around in, The Invisible Man sticks to its roots while pruning them just a tad. Starting how it means to creep on, we meet Elizabeth Moss’s Cecilia making a last ditch effort to escape her home and the abusive relationship with her husband and expert in the field of optics, Adrian (played by Haunting of Hill House star Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Weeks later and the separation from her former husband’s grasp is short-lived, as Cecilia begins to get the feeling that, even after his supposed suicide, Adrian has tracked her down and is terrorising her in a way that only he could. Well, if the suit fits.
This take on The Invisible Man is leaps ahead of the traditional version we’ve come to know. An upgrade straight out of Upgrade.
For a pro in the paranormal and visionary in visceral horror, writer and director Leigh Whannell has absolutely outdone himself with The Invisible Man, simply by putting a spin on a classic by telling a story we’ve seen now more than ever. Sure the antagonist might be a flashy work of fiction but the horror of someone’s growing fear of an old flame is one that burns intensely thanks to a great performance from Elizabeth Moss. Before everything becomes not as it sees, Cecilia is already a damaged soul who’s cracks start to run deeper as her worst fears come to light, or don’t as the case may be. Moss sells every bit of it, trying to put her life back together before an unseen force starts to tear it apart again, and it’s here where Whannell works wonders with almost nothing at all.
Jackson-Cohen may not be on screen that much but Whannell makes sure to have his presence known whenever he can, and every opportunity is one loaded with nerve-shredding terror. Lingering on open spaces with off centre camera-angles that beg you to lean in on anything that seems out of place, or feeding from Moss’s performance of a woman getting closer to the edge, Whannell has a lot of fun scaring us with our own perspective, and its limitations. As the paranoia and the borderline paranormal activity progresses, Moss’s decline in sanity shakes you just as much as the thing that’s taunting her. What gives this iteration of The Invisible Man its edge though, is when he eventually comes on show.
This take on The Invisible Man is leaps ahead of the traditional version we’ve come to know. There’s no trilby, shades and scarf covering up what can’t be seen (though there is a nod to it in Cecilia’s room), instead it’s an upgrade that looks straight out of Upgrade (that’s the better Venom film Whannell made you need to see immediately). Switching on and off like a TV when things, and the camera goes sideways, Whannell’s Invisible Man feels like one firmly in our reality, which only amplifies the horror of it all. This is a timely tale of terror that doesn’t let up, and even with its occasional issues, everything on show ensures that The Invisible Man is one worth seeing again.