What is the most terrifying thing you can think of? It’s a question with many possible answers, but if someone said simply “the unknown”, I think that would be pretty difficult to argue with. In this reimagining of The Invisible Man, the story uses this primal fear to masterfully create thrill, suspense, excitement, and outright horror in scene after scene. The question, “Is someone there?” hangs in the air at every moment.
We first see Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) awake from bed in the middle of the night to leave her rich, powerful, and abusive husband, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who chases her down the road until she escapes with her sister. Hiding out with a friend, Cecilia is scared to even leave the house until she receives news that her former lover has committed suicide after losing her. Finally compelled to begin moving on and living a normal life, Cecilia applies for a job and seeks independence. However, small things start going wrong all around her without any apparent explanation. It makes her feel crazy, but she begins to wonder if Adrian could be behind it. He was a genius; a pioneer in the field of optics. It’s a ridiculous thing to wonder, but what if he found some method of tormenting her from beyond the grave? What if he wasn’t dead at all? Or was she really just losing her mind like he always said she would?
Full disclosure: I normally do not care for movies in this horror/thriller genre. I don’t have anything against them per se, but I usually am not impressed by them.To my pleasant surprise, this film excels in every way. First of all, Elisabeth Moss is an incredible actress in everything she does and this is no exception. She plays the role of tortured-woman-on-the-brink-of-losing-it with jarring authenticity.
The pacing of the movie is also unique and well done. The build up is slow and there is a period where it seems that Cecilia can tell that someone is watching her even though the viewer has not been truly introduced to the invisible man yet, and these scenes were brilliantly executed. The filmmakers made exceptional use of cinematography to utilize their premise to full effect in scaring the audience. There are scenes that depict nothing more than an empty room, which would be boring in any other film, but are terrifying simply because they beg the question, “Is he there? Is something horrible about to happen?”
Finally, there is a bit of a twist that gives the final act some needed excitement and leads to one of the most satisfying film endings in recent memory. You may be wondering if I have anything bad to say about the movie, and there are some small criticisms. The plot has a couple of holes that won’t stand up to scrutiny if you think about them too much after the movie. There’s also some cringy, unnatural dialogue in places and one of the main supporting characters seems pretty unnecessary and out of place for the entire movie. Honestly though, those are nitpicks on what is fundamentally a highly entertaining movie experience.
As some may have seen, this movie was pretty heavily marketed for its plot and symbolism dealing with violence and emotional abuse towards women, – topics which have fueled recent and prominent social discourse. That theme is definitely here. The movie captures the grave impacts of abuse, even when it is only psychological, as well as the struggles of survivors to return to normalcy in its wake. Due to the premise of the film, Cecilia often has trouble convincing others that she is being abused at all, which is clearly meant to mirror the experiences of many women in the real world.
All in all, I think the filmmakers struck a wonderful balance by making a point without making the movie a political piece. If someone who had never heard of the #MeToo movement saw this film, I think they’d only see a very well made thriller without any greater social commentary.
In conclusion, The Invisible Man is a great ride. The writing and cinematography keep you guessing at every moment, the acting is carried by the amazing performance of Elisabeth Moss, and the theme will give you something to think and talk about on the car ride home. Not bad for a horror movie.
About The Invisible Man
Synopsis: When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer
Run time: 2 Hours, 4 Minutes