When Universal abandoned their connected Dark Universe of movie monsters, things changed for the studio. Though the monsters were still the future, they wouldn’t somehow be seen as a sort of Suicide Squad style Monster Squad. Thankfully, in its place is a much different and more compelling take on the classic icons. After the disastrous The Mummy of 2017, The Invisible Man offers more than unseen terror with a very visible allegory of palpable punch.
Behind Every Invisible Man
Weaving something more modern, horror director Leigh Whannell puts a modern societal style on the story. This picture follows the damaged and tragic Cecelia, played by the new horror queen Elisabeth Moss. She is trapped in a bad relationship with a controlling scientist, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). So controlling is Adrian that Cecelia carefully plans out her escape before Adrian can beat her. Elaborate but rationalized once he comes zipping through the woods with malicious intent.
Though traumatized by her relationship and still fearful of the world around her, things are starting to look up for Cecelia. Not only does she have a supporting sister (Harriet Dyer) and detective friend (Aldis Hodge) who houses her but her life seems to turn around. Adrian is soon found dead from suicide and has left Cecelia millions of dollars in his will. Things to going well for her. Almost too well.
The Unseen Horror
Cecelia continues to have terrors that Adrian is still out there but slowly learns to come to terms with him being gone. It is only then when things go awry. Strange things start happening. She is forgetful and clumsy. A job interview turns terrible when she soon discovers she had been drugged. But by whom? Is someone lurking in the shadows?
I’ll come right out and say it as if not implied by the title, but, yes, Adrian is now an invisible man out to make her life a living hell. I doubt this is a spoiler because it’s really not that much of an interesting twist if all of this is in Cecelia’s head. Doing so would not only be uninspired but send the wrong message; that women fearing men being after them is a mental issue. No, Adrian is real, as is the patriarchal element against women fearing to come forward.
The Secret Scares
Adrian’s plan is representative of the possessive man with unchecked power. There’s a telling moment when Cecelia lies in wait for him and questions his motives. Why me, she asks, when are there are so many other women who would want him. Some less astute audience may ask the same question about what Adrian desires. It’s quite clear: power. Adrian already has wealth and astounding technological achievement.
The amount of control Adrian has over Cecelia in his invisible form is absolutely horrifying. Not only does he control her actions in terms of emails and physical contact but he also controls her very body. And since nobody can see him, Cecelia can’t prosecute him. Nobody believes her. Adrian is dead. This woman must be crazy, right? What evidence is there? Are we all starting to connect the dots now?
What I found most intriguing about such a picture is that it’s not afraid to lay thick into the political side. As the film reached its more action-packed third-act, I thought the film was going to settle for a bloody showdown. But that would be very unfulfilling, especially with a twist that would seem to absolve Adrian of his crimes.
But, no, this film does not settle for easy explanations. It does not let Adrian off the hook for as easily. More importantly, Cecelia won’t let the film end so easily, even if her detective friend informs her to take what she can get. The film never wants us to settle for men like Adrian getting away with their scheme just because it’d be easier that way. Though the film certainly wants to say something about the vulnerabilities of women facing their abusers, it’s not above entertaining the cathartic aspect of being a revenge picture. And, oh, how Moss delights in getting in a good stab!
Conclusion: The Invisible Man
Aside from being a competently assembled visual treat, The Invisible Man makes itself loud and clear about what it sets out to be. Akin to the likes of The Twilight Zone, it presents a blunt and timely allegory worth telling than a dated creature feature of sorts. The staging sets up such a horror picture that weaves a monster that is as scary in the dark as it is in the light. This is easily some of the best work to come out of the innovative horror studio Blumhouse and one that’ll be talked about for years after.
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The Invisible Man
A robust bit of horror of great societal commentary and genuine terror.
- Nerve-wracking atmosphere
- Brilliant social allegory
- Visually alluring
- Gets mildly lost in its violence
- Unorothodox twists to make the allegory work