Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid). But when Cecilia’s abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
What We Thought:
Overall I did like The Invisible Man, but boy is there a better movie in there to be had. Elisabeth Moss is one of my favorite actresses. Leigh Whannell made my favorite film of 2018 (Upgrade) and has a horror background thanks to the Saw and Insidious films. So needless to say I was intrigued to see what would come from this re-imagining of a classic creature feature.
When Get Out dropped a few years back and made huge box office numbers, people realized you could make horror movies with a message. Since then we’ve gotten films like Midsommar that made their message the most important part of the film instead of entertaining the audience first. That’s what made Get Out great, it was a highly entertaining flick first and foremost and then slid some social commentary into your brain. This film wants to do that as well by taking a classic villain and adding an abusive relationship into the storytelling.
Unfortunately the film’s message is very heavy-handed and the movie suffers a bit because of it. The first ten minutes show Moss’ character escaping from a boyfriend. We assume she’s escaping for a reason because she’s very secretive about her exit, but it never shows the audience what happened prior. She is now staying with a friend, a cop played by Aldis Hodge, and his daughter. She’s on edge and doesn’t leave the house because she’s afraid the ex will find her. She gets a letter saying he committed suicide and that she’s getting some inheritance money. She’s suspect about the entire situation and starts questioning things going on around her.
After about an hour the film picks up some steam. It lays a lot of groundwork to keep the audience guessing. Is she crazy and making things up because of PTSD? Did he not commit suicide and is stalking her as an invisible man? Is there more to his brother than meets the eye? It does a great job in this department because even at the end, you can still question things a bit even knowing the truth.
It also helps that Moss is fantastic in the role. She runs through every emotion possible and you never quite know what’s going on with her. Because you never see the abuse, you can only rely on her word which helps in not knowing what is going to happen. Things are clearly happening once the film gets going, but Moss plays crazy really well and plays abused even better. If there is an invisible man stalking her that no one can see, she can’t explain the events going on. Her friends, the authorities, the doctors, no one is going to believe a traumatized woman claiming her dead ex is really invisible. She is highly watchable in the film.
Whannell also uses some fantastic camera work to make The Invisible Man look great. I loved his camera work in Upgrade and he uses similar techniques here in fight sequences and dramatic scenes. The camera movement, the score, the setting, the acting all make the movie worth seeing, but I really wish the message came second instead of first. I understand abusive relationships and the trauma they cause can make for good storytelling especially in this scenario, but the movie is such a slow burn you kinda forget you’re watching a creature feature for most of the first and second act. Whannell does sneak in a couple of gruesome scenes you expect from a man associated with Saw and I guess I wanted a bit more of that than a heavy story driven narrative. Critics will love the film because it’s about a woman leaving and fighting an abusive man, but I’m curious to see what the regular movie going audience will think. Even with its negatives, I did find a lot of positives in it so overall it’s still…
Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Producers: Jason Blum, Kylie du Fresne
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen