June 21, 2020

“The Invisible Man” (2020) Review: A Hidden Gem

In the short history of blockbuster cinematic universes, none has been a more high-profile failure than Universal’s Dark Universe, which would have featured crossovers between well-known Universal monsters such as Frankenstein and Dracula. However, after the disastrous performances of Dracula Untold and The Mummy at the box office, Universal opted to go the standalone route. The Invisible Man is the first film to emerge from that endeavor, and if future films are as successful as this one, there’s hope for the series yet.

Horror movies have never been my favorite genre, but I’ve always been fascinated by the creative ideas they present and their ability to convey real-life concepts through their stories. The Invisible Man is a fantastic example, telling the story of Cecilia Kass (a crazily on-edge Elisabeth Moss), who believes that her controlling and abusive ex-boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has faked his death, figured out a way to turn invisible and is coming after her.
A simple premise, to be sure, but one that can go any which way; and the direction that The Invisible Man chooses to take was one that I didn’t expect. If you’ve seen the trailer, you may think that it reveals a lot, perhaps too much…but I can virtually guarantee you that you’re wrong. This movie came out of nowhere and blew me away.

Let’s start with Elisabeth Moss. Her character, Cecilia, is paranoid throughout most of the film, and Moss’s performance perfectly conveys the amount of fear that Cecilia is feeling at any particular moment. Her eyes are hollow and empty, and she’s frowning so often that when she smiles it feels strangely out of place. She’s definitely a highlight of the film.

The Invisible Man is also remarkably effective at showcasing themes of domestic violence, loneliness and gaslighting. It’s fascinating to see these elements examined in a science-fiction/horror environment, and it became very clear over the course of viewing this film that this is the perfect story to highlight those themes.

Suspense is another major element that is done extraordinarily well. I was on the edge of my seat numerous times, tense, waiting for something to come out of nowhere; but the best parts are when it’s nothing at all. You expect something to happen, but when nothing does, you don’t feel disappointed. It gives a strange, contradictory sense of payoff that will surely make you hunger for the next scare (assuming, of course, that horror is your thing; if it isn’t, this definitely isn’t the movie for you).

There isn’t much of an ensemble cast, but the supporting characters are developed and relatable, which is beneficial to the film. Horror movies, as a whole, have been historically hit-or-miss when it comes to supporting characters, and whether they’ll be useless cannon fodder or if the audience will care when they’re killed off. With The Invisible Man, it’s more the latter, and even though Cecilia is definitively the primary character, she cares enough about the people in her life for the audience to sympathize when things start going sideways.

Put briefly, The Invisible Man is a masterpiece. It’s one of my favorite horror movies in recent years, with amazingly naturalistic performances, a solid villain, some shocking reveals, and enough scares and suspense to keep you up at night. If you’re a horror fan, do yourself a favor and check it out. [Grade: A+]

Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer
Rated: R for some strong bloody violence and language
Available: On Demand
Fun Fact: Fire extinguisher foam does not actually stick to people, so when it covers the Invisible Man it was mostly CGI.

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