Back in 2016, Universal was hard at work creating their own Marvel-esque universe with their classic monsters which was set to debut with Tom Cruise’s The Mummy (2017). However, with The Mummy’s release came great critical and financial failure, and with that the scrapping of future films in that universe. One of those films was a reboot of The Invisible Man property—based on the HG Wells book of the same name—with Johnny Depp set to star. While the idea of a cinematic universe with the classic Universal Monsters is still a great idea, in my opinion, I could not be happier with the direction Universal took with one of my favorite monsters in their catalogue. The Invisible Man is a fresh new take on the titular creature that ingeniously marries the resulting paranoia of leaving an abusive relationship and the idea that someone could be watching your every move, and you could have no idea.
The Invisible Man (2020) follows Cecelia Kass (played by Elisabeth Moss), who drugged and escaped her abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a leading scientific mind in the field of optics. Feeling she was finally safe, Cecelia was taken by surprise when Adrian’s brother Tom (played by Michael Dorman) informs her that Adrian has killed himself and left her his entire fortune. From here, Cecelia begins experiencing odd things around her and can’t shake the feeling that she is still being watched by Adrian and that his suicide was a hoax. As her invisible tormentor begins to take things down a more violent path, Cecelia desperately tries to prove that her predator is not just a figment of her dwindling psyche.
My first experience with HG Wells’ character was in the 1948 classic horror-comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, where The Invisible Man makes a surprise cameo at the end of the film. Since the Monster films of this day and age, we haven’t seen a film that returned to focusing simply on The Invisible Man character. Thank goodness, Universal finally gave us one. The Invisible Man (2020) delivers in every way and provides such a suspenseful and enjoyable cinematic experience. The big thing that separates this incarnation from those from the past, is the driving force of plot being centered around the power struggle and manipulation that occurs in an abusive relationship. It is such a huge leap of courage to escape those situations, but we all know people who deal with the psychological ramifications of being in and leaving those situations. The filmmakers’ privy to this issue and taking it a step further with the idea that “you can’t escape, they will follow you even if you can’t see them” is a crucial backbone to the incredible plot of this film.
Along with the plot, all of the performances in the film kill it. There are many moments in the film where the characters are fighting off the Invisible Man and the actors are selling it without making the action lose its suspense and intensity. Elisabeth Moss in particular is absolutely incredible in the film. Her performance sells the horror and the anxiety driven moments. She absolutely steals the show without making the premise seem cheesy or outlandish.
Another notable win for this film is the camera work. One of the big hurdles for a movie like this is making sure you give off the idea that something you cannot see is actually in there in the frame. One of the key things they did to communicate this, is by having the camera follow the invisible subject. For example, there are many shots in the film where characters are doing something in a room. Rather than waiting for those moments to play out, the camera randomly pans and moves somewhere else seemingly following nothing. The use of these shots leaves the audience in suspense in every single scene because it creates a sense that the Invisible Man could literally be anywhere in the frame and we are just as oblivious to it as the characters are.
The Invisible Man has successfully reinvigorated my excitement for future installments in the Universal Monsters and my excitement for monster movies in general. From the incredible performances to the incredible revamped plot, The Invisible Man is an absolute win.
The Invisible Man is rated R for some strong bloody violence, and language.