A film and TV series geek
A promotional image of 'The Invisible Man', starring Elisabeth Moss. (Universal Pictures/File)
Universal Classic Monsters have been an integral part of pop culture for decades. Movies, television shows and books have been inspired by the iconic characters, such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Wolf Man and the Invisible Man, depicting them in their own ways while still honoring the original source material. But after the cinematic car crash that was Tom Cruise’s The Mummy in 2017, the future of this universe has been in limbo. Two origin stories, The Wolf Man and Dracula Untold, remain mysteries until today, while those lucky enough to see the light of day, like Van Helsing, were far from good.
Thankfully, with the arrival of Leigh Whennell’s reimagining of H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, it seems like we’re about to see a renaissance of the franchise. The movie is a fresh contemporary take on the original source that is as bone-chilling and terrifying as it is relevant and timely, shifting the highlight away from the titular character to explore the crippling impacts of domestic abuse.
When the movie begins, we are introduced to Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), a talented San Francisco architect who’s been living under the control of her toxic boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as she puts her delicate escape plan into action in the middle of the night. The movie does not waste any time building its nail-biting suspense, following Cecilia as she slowly packs her belongings as fear rushes through her body. She disables the security system in the house to make sure that Adrian won’t follow her, then runs to the safety of her sister Alice’s (Harriet Dyer) car.
After escaping from the abusive relationship, Cecilia finds refuge at the house of her childhood friend James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), a cop who lives with his bright teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Though James makes sure that Adrian won’t find her, Cecilia still feels shaken. She struggles to even step outside the house, terrified that Adrian is always watching her.
At this point, viewers can gather that Adrian has been abusing Cecilia. This is made clearer when she reveals to James and Alice that Adrian controlled her every move, including how she talked, dressed, what she ate and what she thought of. Not long after, Cecilia’s sister tells her that Adrian had committed suicide and left her US$5 million with certain terms and conditions.
But then, a series of mysterious events begin to haunt Cecilia, leading her to believe that Adrian had not died and that, considering his skill and background in optics, he had found a way to become invisible. Things begin to move by themselves. For instance, a stove knob turns by itself and nearly burns James’ kitchen, while those around Cecilia assume it’s all just in her head.
With these terrorizing moments, Whennell displays his masterful command of the story, building a tight atmosphere as Cecilia tries to fight this invisible figure. The camera work from Stefan Duscio is outstanding, observing both Cecilia and the empty spaces around her to heighten the tension even more. The stirring score by Benjamin Wallfisch makes the movie more terrifying than it already is. Though Whennell relies heavily on jump scares, never do they make The Invisible Man feel cheap. If anything, the jump scares work to complement the unseen force Cecilia faces.
Though the second part of the movie leans into a conventional mix of horror, sci-fi and action, Whennell achieves something more visceral by depicting Ceclia’s harrowing journey to make everyone believe her story. The invisibility isn’t just positioned to fulfill the promise of the title and the horror, but also as a metaphor of how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by domestic abuse is often invisible. This is why most of the time when victims of domestic abuse ask someone to believe them, people tend to dismiss them because they don’t see the evidence.
The Invisible Man is a timely and eye-opening movie that not only asks us to start believing women, but also subtly makes the victim finally get their chance to feel seen. The movie excels at achieving its message by simply showing the truth in a way that remains grounded in the genre.
The movie is masterful in its technicality, but it is Elisabeth Moss’ powerful performance that seals the deal. Moss’ screen presence from start to finish is painful and, at the same time, showcases vulnerability, tenacity and depth.
Though some points in the movie feel unquestionable, The Invisible Man is still a work of masterful horror that goes beyond the genre trope. It explores a story that is relevant while remaining familiar to the original source. If there’s one thing we can learn from the movie, it's that monsters do exist. Not the ones we read about in children books, but those we may meet every day and probably sleep next to at night. (wng)
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