The Invisible Man takes a classic movie monster and revamps it for the modern age while also being a very good thriller.
Director: Leigh Whannell
Summary: 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.
To say that there were low expectations for The Invisible Man might be a bit of an understatement. Ever since Marvel changed movies as we know it with an interconnected universe other studios have been trying to copy the method. Universal Pictures was actually ahead of the game because they had the Universal Monsters who were actually the first cinematic universe.
However, attempts to reboot the monsters have all failed to varying degrees. The latest version of an interconnected universe for monsters was the Dark Universe with the first entry being either Dracula Untold or The Mummy depending on who you ask. Both of those movies were commercial and critical failures and Universal handed one of the monsters off to Blumhouse who knew how to make good horror movies with small budgets that turned a profit. The Invisible Man, with its all of $7 million budget, came to be and despite having every reason to be an easy crash grab is anything but. This movie is here to tackle the complex themes of domestic abuse and it can be like being hunted by something that no one else can see. The willingness this movie has to embrace is one of the many reasons it works.
The idea of being hunted by something that no one else can see is hard to portray in a visual medium without it being silly. The trailers have shown one of the intense shots of the movie which is when Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) goes outside and we can see someone breathing behind her. That being said a lot of this movie is Moss staring at empty spaces in various locations and she must portray that instinct that we all have when we're being watched. It's not an easy role to pull off but Moss is a master at it. You can see the emotions going across her face as she stares at nothing and her mind tells her "nothing is there" but every instinct she has is screaming "yes there is". It's tapping into a fear we all have when the house makes a weird noise and we wonder whether or not we're alone.
The movie does not hold back when it comes to addressing the domestic abuse angle. We don't see Cecilia getting hurt before she leaves but she describes it in detail. We see classic control techniques playing out; for example, abusers will often alienate their victim from friends and family, only it is turned up to eleven as Cecilia tries to explain that a man everyone thinks is dead is still trying to control her life. There are some real, genuine thrills to be had here and a scene in a restaurant that will make you jump. This is to say nothing about the ending which is pretty much perfect but we can't get into without spoiling.
This is not to say that it's a perfect movie. At just over two hours it is a little on the long side and there are probably fifteen minutes or so that they could cut to keep things moving along. Once Cecilia ends up in the hospital the whole thing gets a bit ridiculous and loses some of the tension in place of an action scene. It's not to say that the action scene is bad it just doesn't gel with the rest of the movie. The best parts of the slower moments when we see very little evidence that the invisible man is indeed real. A cushion compressing with weight, something moving off of the shelf, these are the moments that work. That moment at the beginning of the third act is a little silly compared to how heavy the rest of the movie is but the final scene more than makes up for it.
The Invisible Man is absolutely a step in the right direction for Universal and how they are handling the classic monsters. Movie monsters are horror and horror is always done best on a smaller budget. It forces the production to pick an excellent director who can make a scene with nothing radiate tension or really convey the feeling of being watched which is what The Invisible Man does. Whether or not Universal will learn the right lesson from the inevitable success of this movie remains to be seen but we got one good movie if nothing else.