You might find parallels between The Invisible Man, a taut and creepy psychological thriller from Insidious alumnus Leigh Whannell, and the second verse of the Queen song of the same title.
Now I’m in your room and I’m in your bed
And I’m in your life and I’m in your head
Like the CIA or the FBI
You’ll never get close, never take me alive.
References to intelligence and law enforcement agencies aside, its titular antagonist does exactly that: he gets in the room, bed, life and head of protagonist Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) for almost the entirety of its two-hour running time.
At least, we think he does. For, although Whannell lets the audience in on the source of these disturbing developments early enough, we moviegoers have been let down too many times before (by less tuned-in purveyors of horror content) to be certain that what we’re seeing is real (in the story’s context), and not imagined.
Though, thanks to a stunning performance by Moss as her character goes through a whirlwind of emotional turbulence and slowly unravels before our eyes, the torment inflicted upon her gets in our heads too.
The Invisible Man is the first post-aborted-Dark-Universe appearance of a classic Universal Studios movie “monster” after 2017’s The Mummy.
After that Tom Cruise vehicle fared somewhat less than spectacularly well at the box office, Universal scrapped all shared cinematic universe plans for its supernatural stable and went back to the drawing board.
The result is a film that was made for about 5% of The Mummy’s budget and is miles more entertaining. It shows that there’s life left in the old creature feature yet, especially when it’s made with more passion and smarts than cynicism and avarice.
The nightmare for poor Cecilia seemingly ends as the movie starts, when she flees an abusive relationship with wealthy tech genius Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, the narcissistic hired killer from the Dwayne Johnson revenge flick Faster).
But that’s just the start of it. Adrian dies, seemingly by his own hand, and then Cecilia begins to suspect that an unseen being is stalking her – and, to all intents and purposes, haunting her too.
There is no safe haven, not even the home of tough cop James Lanier (Aldis Hodge, Leverage) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid, A Wrinkle In Time). The unseen entity even tries to drive a wedge between Cecilia and her overprotective sister Emily (Harriet Dyer).
And then things get increasingly worse for her, as The Invisible Man skilfully preys on our own fears – of having our privacy invaded and sanctuaries violated, of losing control just when hope of regaining it had been rekindled – in a #MeToo-aware way, but without forcing “message moments” down our throats.
The first hour-and-then-some of the movie is, in fact, a terrific example of some fine filmmaking alchemy in all departments: craftily written, engagingly acted, smartly shot and edited (with effective payoffs to tense set-ups without resorting to cheap jump scares), and effectively scored.
The music by IT composer Benjamin Wallfisch, especially, makes clever use of deep bass notes and near-discordant non-melody to increase our feelings of unease. (It’s equally as disturbing as the concerto-for-rusty-swings musical motif employed on HBO’s The Outsider, another 2020 effort that excels at getting under your skin.)
The excellent build-up is, disappointingly, undone to a small degree by the overly sensational third act.
Whannell does himself (and his collaborators) a disservice of sorts with the slam-bang violence of the last 30-plus minutes, and once that dam bursts, a whole lot of questions held back by the effective witchery of the film’s first half come flooding through.
Did the bad guy’s invisibility formula come with some sort of super-strength component? Do state-run psychiatric facilities hire wimps as armed security personnel? How did Cecilia maintain her friendship with James and his kid if she was in such a controlling, abusive relationship with Adrian? Also, why is Adrian not as rich as Tony Stark?
Though, among the head-scratchers, some interesting questions/notions arise: mainly about how the thought of impunity, of freedom from consequences, could “empower” someone to extreme or drastic deeds. The Invisible Man suggests that anyone would take a bite out of that apple.
Terror, unseen but tangible
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