In 1897, acclaimed author H.G. Wells created a science fiction horror character known as The Invisible Man. Using optics to change the refractive index of a body so that light doesn’t bounce off, mad scientist Griffin uses this procedure on himself to become invisible and create violence without being seen. Years later, The Invisible Man was adapted for the big screen and quickly becoming a famous horror character along with Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, especially with the iconic imagery of a bandaged face and trenchcoat. In this new adaption/ reboot of The Invisible Man, are the scares still effective in 2020?
Trapped in a controlling and abusive relationship with the wealthy and brilliant scientist, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, assisted by her sister (Harriet Dyer). While in hiding with her childhood friend (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid), Cecilia discovers that Griffin has committed suicide and left her a large portion of his fortune. However, she suspects that Griffin’s death is a hoax as she finds herself being stalked and attacked by a figure that cannot be seen, believing that it somehow has to do with his technology.
Getting to this point of having a contemporary Invisible Man movie has been quite an uphill battle, especially recently with an attempt of integrating Johnny Depp as the character in a failed Monster universe akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began (and finished?) with Tom Cruise’s 2017 Mummy movie. However, the significant difference between The Mummy and The Invisible Man (2020) is scaling back the story and making a genuine horror movie that updates the story to the modern-day. Aussie writer and director Leigh Whinnel (Co-creator of Saw and Insidious) clearly knows how to utilise a very minimal budget with very effective scares or action and very smart writing, which was demonstrated in his previous movie Upgrade, and The Invisible Man is no exception. Taking what could be a dated concept of an invisible person into a concept of an emotional and abusive relationship gave the movie an extra layer of uncomfortableness as it shows how far someone would maintain dominance over their spouse without going the easy route of making a jump scare-fest.
As a late February movie release, The Invisible Man has a surprisingly intelligent script as every set up has a very satisfying payoff, especially during the second half of the movie when Cecilia decides to take action. Elizabeth Moss gives an outstanding performance as you not only believe the paranoia and fear of her ex-spouse, but also the annoyance of wanting to move forward with her life as her past is tormenting her and how it’s affecting with her friends and family. An aspect that felt lacking was actually seeing the relationship between Cecilia and Griffin as most of the movie just has characters telling the audience the controlling nature of Griffin, but it would be more effective if the movie showed their lives before the invisible horrors. While the last thing we really need to see is domestic violence depicted on screen, but it would have made Griffin more of an interesting horror villain.
Overall, The Invisible Man is a very effective remake that takes the original source material in a new direction by taking advantage of some genuine moments of paranoia and uncomfortableness. While the titular character should have had more time dedicated to the core relationship of the story, that does not completely take away from the smart writing and the fantastic performances. I would highly recommend seeing The Invisible Man and I can assure you that the trailers don’t give the whole movie away.
Rating: ★★★★ out of 5
The Invisible Man is in cinemas on February 27th… If you can spot him…