by Peter Davis
I have been a fan of Leigh Whannell ever since he plopped out of a bathtub at the beginning of Saw in 2004. I adore the first Saw movie and I am an unapologetic fan of the whole franchise. I was also very impressed with Whannell’s directorial debut Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), which he followed up with the less well known but absolutely stunning sci-fi body horror Upgrade in 2018. Now he brings a new take on H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man to our screens, and it truly cements him in horror cinema as one of the most impressive auteurs working today.
His creative partner in crime for these movies has been producer Jason Blum and his company Blumhouse Productions, who leapt into the stratosphere in 2007 with Paranormal Activity, and have since gone from strength to strength producing the likes of Insidious, Get Out, Whiplash, and the Purge movies and TV series. Now, after Universal’s epic Dark Universe plan has fallen to the wayside mainly due to the underwhelming Tom Cruise vehicle The Mummy (2017), Blumhouse has grabbed hold of the Invisible Man for Whannell’s new take on the story.
The beauty of the movie is that it is not about the invisible man – it’s all about his victim. It is the story of Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) who manages to leave an abusive relationship only to be plunged into a world of PTSD and paranoia. A miracle appears when she is informed of her abuser’s suicide (and a very generous inheritance) only for strange occurrences to plague her, resulting in the fear that he may still be around as a terrifying unseen presence. And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot – the rest you have to watch for yourself.
It is a vast understatement to say that Elisabeth Moss is fantastic in the role. We are with her for pretty much the entire movie, and we suffer with her as she descends further and further into frustration and despair, as the violence around her escalates and those closest to her are pushed away, assuming she is plummeting into madness. This is not just a tale about a bad man, this is a serious exploration of gaslighting, toxic masculinity and the lengths that some people have to go to before they are believed – something that is currently very relevant in our real world and deserves to be talked about more. Moss is absolutely believable throughout, and the film would not work as well without her commitment and sheer bloody talent.
And it’s scary too – there are some very well crafted jump scares in there (and a couple of very shocking moments) but it is when the camera is left alone to be still that the film really excels – knowing that there could be something there you cannot see means you are constantly looking around, watching and waiting for whatever it is to revel itself. Those static shots had me squirming in my seat, taking me straight back to the most successful instalments in the Paranormal Activity series (1 and 3 if you’re asking). In fact you are on edge from the very opening – Cecilia’s silent escape from the clutches of the all-too-visible man is a masterclass in suspense and really sets the tone for the entire movie.
The sound design is also fantastic. Being predominantly an audio podcast you may know that we talk about sound a lot – and Whannell takes full advantage of the soundscape, from little suspicious moments to those big jump scares. I would highly recommend you see this movie on the big screen with the best sound system you can find, ideally in Dolby Atmos to get the full extent of the creative team’s intentions. And the bigger the screen, the more you can scan the background for glimpses of … something. Seriously – get your butts to the cinema.
One slight word of warning – for those who have had similar experiences in real life it may be a difficult watch – the domestic abuse and gaslighting elements of the film are done very well and very believably, but they are absolutely key to the story being told here, and are certainly not cheap or exploitative (I’m looking at you Hollow Man).
All in all, it’s a big recommendation from me. I am very, very glad Leigh Whannell plopped out of that bathtub and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
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