The Invisible Man – a complex and visually stunning slice of modern horror

1st March 2020

The Invisible Man is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From Get Out’s award-winning success to Ma’s disappointing paint-by-numbers horror, Blumhouse has provided us with a mixed bag of jump scares since its launch in 2010. However, nobody could dismiss the sheer creativity and diversity of the content Blumhouse has helped bring to the big screen, and its latest picture, The Invisible Man, marks a welcome return to the socially reflective horror of its biggest hit, Get Out. Here, H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man is brought bang up to date through a devilishly taut exploration of domestic violence.

First published in 1897, The Invisible Man has a long history of adaptations, from the 1933 James Whale production of the same name to modern interpretations such as Paul Verhoeven and Claudio Fäh’s Hollow Man (2000). But director and writer Leigh Whannell (Insidious) opts to take a different path by focusing on the horror surrounding The Invisible Man and the abuse of power his condition offers. Whannell cleverly dovetails real-life horror with the classic themes of H.G. Wells’ original work, resulting in a film that mixes jump scares with far more psychological themes of abuse, manipulation and control. In Whannell’s world, The Invisible Man is a stalker and a controlling ex-partner who will stop at nothing to maintain his physical and emotional hold over Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss).

The film opens in the stark modernist surroundings of a luxury house facing the Pacific Ocean as Cecilia flees an abusive relationship with Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Cecilia leaves everything she owns in a race against the clock, having drugged Adrian to provide a window of escape in what resembles a classic prison break. She takes refuge with her childhood friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid), in the safety of the San Francisco suburbs. However, despite being away from the control and manipulation of her ex, Cecilia’s post-traumatic stress haunts her. Therefore, when the news of Adrian’s death reaches her, she feels freedom and rebirth. But someone is watching, waiting and manipulating her every move. The problem is that neither Cecilia can see nor hear this silent assassin.

The Invisible Man is held together by the outstanding performance of Elisabeth Moss, who is utterly captivating in every scene. But when this excellent central performance meets a cinematic design that at times echoes Hitchcock’s Vertigo, The Invisible Man becomes a complex and visually stunning slice of modern horror that is unafraid to explore the terror of abuse and the horror of voyeurism, gaslighting and control.

However, despite the beautifully orchestrated tension of the first half, there is a problem with the final act, one that many modern horrors suffer as the narrative falls into tried and tested cliches in concluding the story. But despite this weakness, it’s fair to say that The Invisible Man is a genuine cinematic surprise that pays homage to Hitchcock while delivering a terrifying social commentary that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled.

Director: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Elisabeth MossOliver Jackson-CohenHarriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman 

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