What a struggle it has been to get The Invisible Man back onto the big screen. Not only was the last Invisible Man film Paul Verhoeven’s shockingly underwhelming Hollowman, but the character has been attached to at least two Universal Pictures failed cinematic universes. There was the atrocious I Frankenstein, the boring Dracula Untold and the awful Tom Cruise led The Mummy – all with the goal of starting a new monster series for the classic Universal properties.
The only reason I was looking forward to this one was because the reliably enjoyable Blum House was producing it and Leigh Whannell blew me away with the fantastic Upgrade. So how does the film fair after all this complication?
Very loosely based on the H. G. Wells novel, The Invisible Man follows Kate Moss as a woman who has escaped an abusive relationship. When she hears that her violent ex has apparently committed suicide and left her a ton of inheritance money, it looks like her life is back on track. However, when strange things start happening – subtle at first but increasingly more erratic – she finds that her ex is not only alive and well, he has found a way to be invisible and is using this ability to torment her. Being more abused than ever and finding herself to be more isolated, it’s only a matter of time before she breaks down for good. Unless she can stop him.
It is too early to tell right now, but I feel that this film will go down as one of the greatest remakes of all time. It does for The Invisible Man what John Carpenter did for The Thing and David Cronenberg did for The Fly. Leigh Whannell promises to be one of the best directors working today, and I look forward to whatever he makes next – or at least I would were it not an Escape From New York project (we’ll see on that one). I feel like everything in this film was masterful.
I will not go on without praising Kate Moss. Her performance is so understated and yet absolutely perfect. She feels like a woman wanting to get back on her feet and find a way to move past the abuse she has been subjected to for years, yet this one man is keeping that from happening. It’s heartbreaking and makes this film feel like an underdog story – you root for her ever step of the way.
And she is matched by a great villain. The Invisible Man himself is a very silent character, but words are unnecessary. He has a plan, and we can tell he has one even though we have no idea what the next step is until it’s too late. It makes him as terrifying as any horror villain before him, and in many cases more so.
Whannell’s directing is superb. There are countless long shots or panning shots with huge empty spaces in them. You find yourself scanning the whole screen – you know that you will not see him, you can’t, but you are looking for any sign of him. His breath, something move as he rubs against it, even the faintest sound. It’s using the camera against you, in a way that makes the experience tense and terrifying. Made even more so by the fact that we have no idea which scenes he is present in and which he is not for the most part.
I loved the films lived in sets and the score was delightfully eerie as well. While I will not spoil it, I thought that how the Invisible Man was, well, invisible in this film was refreshing and smart, certainly better than the other adaptations – much less silly. The script is very strong as well, with perfect pacing, great dialogue and some terrific set pieces and twists. I will say that I did have my gripes with it.
The main two were that, while the film puts a fair bit of focus on security cameras at times, there are points where the protagonist’s innocents can be proven by people looking at the footage. It’s something that you have to accept is just happening for the film to work – and it does work, it’s just a bit weird. And then there is the issue of ‘how did he get here so fast?’. There’s one moment when a character drives miles away, with no way that she was followed, and the Invisible Man still shows up for a moment. But these are just gripes, they don’t spoil the overall film.
It’s just too good a film to pass up. I’d call it the best horror film since The Babadook. I put it on par with Upgrade – the two are very different films from the same talented director. It’s nice to see a horror film this big be slow and methodical. When it finally goes for the throat towards the end, it feels earned. It’s the reward, made sweeter by the respect the film pays it audience. Ironically, The Invisible Man is a must see film.
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