What makes a horror film truly horrific? For some, it’s a hideous monster, while for others it’s something more grounded in realism like a stalker or serial killer. Some film viewers cower at the sight of gallons of blood, while others tremble at depictions of ghosts and demons. For me, however, the scariest thing in a film is what’s not shown… but what is instead left to the mind. In these sorts of horror movies, it is important that the filmmaker achieves frights through more nuanced approaches, such as the use of clever camerawork and a methodical buildup of tension; “The Invisible Man” definitely succeeds in achieving these. It’s a movie that toys with your mind and crafts an aura of suspense that grows throughout the film’s entirety. “The Invisible Man” does not fall back on cheap jump scares or predictable frights, it instead utilizes some great filmmaking techniques which work alongside a few standout performances to create a compelling and thrilling story.
“The Invisible Man” stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. The film centers around Moss’ character Cecilia, who is a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband Adrian (Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy and powerful technology innovator. After escaping their home and leaving Adrian, Cecilia hides out with relatives for a couple of weeks and is soon notified that he has killed himself. In Adrian’s last will and testament, he details that he is leaving her millions of dollars on a few contingencies, and Cecilia finally feels like she can start anew. However, as odd and seemingly unexplainable occurrences begin to add up, Cecilia starts to believe that not only might her late husband still be alive, but that he has actually found a way to turn himself invisible and is now terrorizing her.
“The Invisible Man” truly is Moss’s movie. She is the main character in every sense of the term as her evocative performance works to create a character that we not only empathize with but also share in experiencing all that she does. The film genuinely puts us in Cecilia’s shoes, as we both feel the fear she feels and the aggravation that comes with no one believing her story. Her facial expressions and eyes do so much of the work to successfully communicate just how distressed she is, as she is forced to relive so much of her past trauma. We experience the never-ending sense of impending horror that looms over Cecilia’s life, which helps us further invest into the narrative, and thus helps make the film all the more captivating.
“The Invisible Man” rises above the average thriller by making real-world connections to some very serious subject matter: domestic abuse. The film associates Cecilia being haunted by a literal “invisible man” to the way that trauma can affect the victims of past abusive relationships. As a victim of domestic abuse herself, the trauma Cecilia feels becomes tangible in the form of her seemingly resurrected husband who comes back to frighten her. Throughout the movie Cecilia never feels alone, as if Adrian is always in the room waiting to hurt her, which just so happens to be true in this film. “The Invisible Man” really works to illustrate the horrors that many victims of domestic abuse must live with day to day, as even those who have left their abusers can still be completely terrorized by the memory of them. Throughout the entire film, Cecilia tries to shake the pain of her toxic marriage, but as you will see in the movie she must quite literally confront her past to do so.
Outside of Moss’s performance, the other standout element came in the form of the masterful cinematography at the hands of the director Leigh Wannell, and the cinematographer Stefan Duscio. The camerawork in “The Invisible Man” succeeds in creating an atmosphere of suspense as the camera moves slowly yet purposefully through each scene. Empty frames of hallways and lingering shots of empty chairs which normally would not hold value, instead become possible locations where the Invisible Man may be lurking and thus generate sensations of unease within the viewer. The tracking shots all feel measured and so methodically orchestrated that as each second passes the tension grows evermore. In a movie where you cannot see the real horror, the camera substitutes in and successfully produces an aura of pure tension, as at any moment it feels as though the Invisible Man will strike.
“The Invisible Man” was produced by Universal Studios and Blumhouse Productions, and continues Blumhouse’s success in crafting quality horror/thriller films, following up past hits of theirs like “Get Out” and “Happy Death Day.” However, this film hit theaters at the wrong time as only a few weeks into its initial run, Coronavirus swept the nation, resulting in the majority of theaters across the country being shut down. Acting fast, Universal Studios decided to forgo a re-release and instead released the film to iTunes and VOD where it is now available to rent online.
“The Invisible Man” is not the scariest film by any means, but it is definitely a suspenseful thriller with enough elements of horror to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Although it can be predictable at times, “The Invisible Man” is still a fairly fresh take on a decades-old story. This remake separates itself completely and for the better from the 1933 original film of the same name, as the 30’s film was motivated by advances in special effects of the time, while this movie instead trusts its narrative to be the most gripping feature of the film. Moss’s lead performance and some great film elements make “The Invisible Man” an entertaining viewing experience and definitely worthy of renting during this time of quarantine. Stay safe and happy watching!
Cover Photo: The Verge