Invisible Man Elisabeth Moss

Year: 2020
Director(s): Leigh Whannell
Writer(s): Leigh Whannell
Region of Origin: USA
Rating: R
Color, 124 mins

Synopsis: Cecelia works to escape a ruthless ex and his cruel game. (Source)

After benching their iconic monsters for way too long, Universal has finally found an inspired restart with Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man. Unlike previous efforts amidst a spate of misguided reboots/remakes, Whannell has found a way to make this classic new again. He’s pinpointed the horror behind a familiar story, and, surprise, it’s unfettered human cruelty. Refracted through sharp social critique, Whannell’s film is an empathetic feminist thriller with bite, overflowing with invention and confidence. It also helps that Elisabeth Moss, again, puts her all into a very tricky character, making us feel her trauma and earning a satisfying reckoning.

When the film opens, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is creeping through the high tech home of an abusive lover, sneaking out in the dead of night. After what seems like months of prep, she’s finally found the courage to leave her harrowing relationship. While the effort is almost thwarted, she’s successful despite a crippling bout of PTSD. As she works to recover, she’s rocked with a revelation. Her ex, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), an esteemed inventor, has committed suicide and left her his fortune. In the wake of such a development, Cecilia is finally free of his grip. But when strange occurrences begin happening, she can’t help but feel as if she’s being watched. As it turns out, Adrian may have found the ultimate way to torment Cecilia. She can’t see him, but she knows that he’s still with her, orchestrating terrible acts towards her and those closest to her. 

What makes this film so refreshing, is that it isn’t about guessing whether or not Cecilia is going crazy. We know right from that start that Adrian is out to get her, making this a film about finally believing a woman no matter what. Those around her might not believe, but we the viewer, know the truth. Whannell takes advantage of this idea through every step, putting her through Adrian’s cruel games as they test Cecilia’s resolve. Though the film doesn’t have anything supernatural in it, its high tech facelift is genius. Each step in Adrian’s plans give way to an escalating series of horrifying freak outs. They not only illustrate how trauma isn’t easy to shake, but how the actions of an abuser can still be hurtful or fatal even when they “aren’t” there. It’s this symbolism that the film thrives within, giving it purpose and a message that transcends genre and convention. 

Invisible Man review Elisabeth Moss

Since the story does amount to what feels like a visually one-sided fight, Elisabeth Moss’ chops are full on display. The film’s constant attacks require her to not only build character through struggle, but also her slowly shifting dominance and fight for control. Moss transforms the story’s fantasy into grounded emotions, making us truly understand the weight of trauma and what it’s like to not have anyone believe you. In a more unique way, Whannell’s ability to build Adrian is fascinating given that we never see him. We feel his actions speak louder than words, and by the end, completely hate him. There’s no other way to view him other than vile and despicable. Rounding things out, Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid bring out welcomed parts of Cecilia’s life, adding support even if their relationship to her is complicated. 

The Invisible Man understands exactly what makes this story work in modern day. It’s amped up everything from the source text with a modern context that digs deeper into the story’s roots. In essence, Whannell has turned myth into flesh, manifesting abuse with symbolism that never feels exploitive but necessary. This is the best kind of horror – it’s accessible and entertaining, without diminishing its subject matter. It should also be the standard moving forward. Whannell proves how these stories don’t need to follow trends because the fear within them is more innate and primal. If this is the beginning of a new era for the Universal Monsters, then I can’t wait to see what’s next.

P.S. If you haven’t seen Whannell’s Upgrade, correct that immediately!