Universal Studios continue to reboot classic horror movies, transposing The Invisible Man into the light of the 21st century. The result is a film one part Julia’s Eyes, one part Gaslight and a third part Sleeping With the Enemy.
Leigh Whannell helms the picture, writing and directing the adaption of HG Wells’s novel. For someone primarily known for creating universes and screen writing, Whannell also proves himself a maestro behind the camera. He finds great places to frame scenes, well aware of what to show and what not to for the audience to be held in suspense.
He transforms the villain and themes of the classic story into a tale about domestic violence and a woman being ignored. Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia, exquisitely. She’s a harrowed woman trapped in the mansion of her millionaire optics genius boyfriend. The story begins with no context. Moss awakens in the dead of night, having drugged her partner with sleeping pills and disabling the alarms. It’s a nail biting, thrilling escape sequence that manages to get the adrenaline pumping incredibly early in the picture. After escaping her abusive partner Moss is hiding in suburbia when she is informed her ex has supposedly taken his own life.
Cleverly Whannell chooses not to show Moss’s partner’s face so we the audience, are in the dark to whom this person is that will spend most of the film haunting her. Initially the film sets up as more horror than thriller. And there are plenty of tense moments in dark spaces. But it quickly becomes much more of a thriller as Moss deduces the invisible man’s identity early on and is unable to convince anyone of the truth. The invisible man is able to alienate her few family and friends and totally isolate her in an apt exemplar for women trapped by abusive partners.
While the subject matter couldn’t be more serious the film begins to unravel and become a tad silly with a perplexing plot and character motivations that are vexing. A conventional horror film would involve her overcoming her imperceptible stalker in a final do or die. This thriller is determined to buck the conventional, doubling down on a Shyamalan-type double twist ending. It’s a big reach and requires a few of the characters doing personality 180’s. The result is an ending that is convoluted and tonally mismatched to the entire film. It’s with a little hope I’m left wondering if there’s a brilliant director’s cut ending hiding away some where à la I am Legend.
The Invisible Man is in cinemas from 27th February through Universal Pictures.