The Invisible Man, 2020.
Directed by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Storm Reid, Aldis Hodge, Michael Dorman, Harriet Dyer, Benedict Hardie, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
When Cecilia’s abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
Making a story over a century old into one of the most impressive and relevant films of this or any other year is a remarkable achievement for Saw director Leigh Whannell.
Removing the yellowing bandages from the festering wounds of Hollow Man, or even the abandoned Dark Universe line-up that could have featured ol translucent Man himself, he has dragged a potentially hokey concept into the #metoo generation, and made a thriller that’ll stir the grey matter as much as it prompts primal gasp-out-loud moments of horror.
Escaping from her own domestic Alcatraz during a nerve-shredding opening sequence, our journey is to be taken with Elizabeth Moss’s Cecelia, and it’s one that’ll put both her and the audience through a physical and emotional endurance test for the duration of this traumatic psychological horror.
She’s fleeing from her controlling boyfriend (The Haunting of Hill House‘s Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who we’re introduced to with his arm gently cradling her, like a hair-trigger bear trap, primed to go off should he sense her moving. It generates a feeling of unease and burgeoning dread upon which the film is masterfully built.
Having employed diversionary tactics in order to pull off the sleight-of-hand reveal of Saw‘s twist, Whannell invokes the likes of Hitchcock or Kubrick, with long glacial camera movements, making use of the frame’s entirety to allow the audience to look for something that may-or-may-not be there. It’s playful, but it’s utterly terrifying at the same time, especially when it’s punctuated with one of the many subtle shocks: a breath of cold air, or a palm against the shower door. However, the masterstroke is how unsettling it is when nothing happens at all.
While The Invisible Man might appear to be a film about someone trying to vanish, it’s driving narrative is one of a woman who wants to be seen, and Elisabeth Moss delivers a performance that demands that: she is phenomenal. Part Sarah Connor, a stunning psyche-ward showdown triggers Judgment Day parallels, and part 1978 Laurie Strode. Her gaslit descent into a sanity-testing hell is remarkable. You might come for the scares of the floating knives or footsteps on the floor, but you stay for Cecilia’s edge-of-your-seat fight for survival.
When the two combine it’s a triumph in minimalist special-effects work and horror. There’s an assault scene which is executed in stunning fashion, as Moss contorts around the kitchen floor as her invisible assailant pins her down, and one sequence that’s so shocking, the stress it induces shakes you from the movie for a couple of minutes. Memoirs of an Invisible Man this ain’t.
If there was any complaint to be levelled towards the film, it is a tad transparent, with a few of the final reel beats, while undeniably effective, quite predictable as the plot plants its A slots into B seeds throughout.
Timely and unbearably tense, this will put you through the emotional wringer in the smartest, most enjoyable way possible, and largely due to a next-level performance from Moss, The Invisible Man has to be seen.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt