It was only a couple of years ago, in 2017, that we saw an attempt to turn the classic Universal monsters into a blockbuster action franchise. After the critical and commercial failure of The Mummy that was called off. Now, in partnership with Blumhouse, we are seeing one of those classic monsters, the invisible man, brought back into the world of horror.
And not only is The Invisible Man a proper horror/thriller film but it is perfectly reframed for the modern world. Leigh Whannell, the writer and director, has found a way to fit the story perfectly into the present day and the big technological boom we’ve had recently with a really interesting technological take on the invisible man. We’ve seen him incorporate science-fiction and horror together brilliantly in his masterpiece Upgrade. But more than just the plot, the focus in the film has changed as well. Whereas H. G. Wells’ original story follows the titular invisible man closely Whannell’s film instead focuses on Cecilia, a woman who flees an abusive relationship with a wealthy businessman, Adrian Griffin.
The opening of the film follows her escape from Griffin’s home, and it is some of the most gripping and tense cinema I have seen in a couple of years. In fact the tension in those opening 5 or 10 minutes is almost oppressive, and you will be grateful that the film eases up a little after that. That isn’t to say that the film as a whole doesn’t have tense moments, but that tension gradually lessens as the film goes on. I actually think this may be intentional to mirror Cecilia’s growing confidence throughout the film.
And Cecilia’s growth is masterfully played by Elisabeth Moss. Moss has consistently been delivering great performances over the past few years, even in smaller roles like Us she stands out. And she is exceptional in The Invisible Man as well. From someone terrified for her life, to someone who is going to fight back against the invisible force stalking her. Without her performance a lot of the scenes could easily seem hoaky or ridiculous, but she (and Whennell) make these one sided fight scenes feel genuinely creepy and realistic.
After how terrible The Mummy was it is great to see Universal switch tactics and take these classic monsters that are rooted in horror films back to those roots, but brought into the 21st Century. Rumours are that Blumhouse will be handling a Dracula film next, and after The Invisible Man that’s an exciting prospect.