Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass
Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian Griffin
Aldis Hodge as James Lanier
Storm Reid as Sydney Lanier
Harriet Dyer as Alice Kass
Michael Dorman as Tom Griffin
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell
The Invisible Man Review:
Before I dive into the masterwork that is The Invisible Man, I must first take you on the path that writer/director Leigh Whannell took to arrive in the director’s chair on the reboot of the H.G. Wells classic. If you don’t recognize the name of the 43-year-old Australian screenwriter and director, you will never forget it once you’ve realized he not only appeared in the first three Saw films and all five Insidious chapters, but is the co-creator of the former and the sole creator of the latter.
That’s right, two of the most beloved horror franchises of this millennium both starred and were created by Whannell, and after making his directorial debut in the third Insidious film, he would go on to helm the 2018 cyberpunk action-thriller Upgrade. While somewhat overlooked during its run at the box office, the film was a critical hit, earning rave reviews for Whannell’s direction alongside the dark humor and themes of its story. Fans waited with bated breath to see what his next project would be, some believing it to be a fifth Insidious film while others expected either another indie horror effort or even an Upgrade follow-up, but it was revealed last July that he would be in charge of reviving a new adaptation of Wells’ Invisible Man after the failed attempt at bringing the Dark Universe to life at Universal.
Now the time has arrived for the Blumhouse Productions and Whannell horror baby and it is one of the greatest gifts to the horror genre since the director’s first horror franchise or his frequent collaborator’s Conjuring series. Between the director’s excellent grip on the art of suspense, some of the most intelligent and even timely storytelling the genre has seen and some incredible rug pulls that even had me audibly gasping and covering my mouth with my hand, Whannell has proven he is truly a master in both the director’s and writer’s chairs.
Based on Wells’ novel, the story follows Cecilia Kass (Moss) as she is trapped in an abusive and manipulative relationship with the brilliant scientist Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen), but escapes with the help of her sister (Dyer), their childhood friend (Hodge) and his teenage daughter. While everyone seems delighted by the news that Adrian has seemingly committed suicide and has left her a fortune, Cecilia remains suspicious and finds herself the target of eerie occurrences and believes he has found a way to become invisible. As her life begins to spiral, she must prove her suspicions are true before she completely loses her mind or her life.
The story’s use of the abusive relationship as a launch-off point proves to be so much more than that, with Whannell and Moss portraying the all-too-timely subject in respectful and truthful fashion that is fascinating to watch from start to finish as Cecilia struggles to move on and never takes any information given to her in a manner that feels unbelievable or cartoonish. In addition, the story remains one of the most unpredictable and clever efforts in the horror genre, with every twist and turn creating a real sense of absolute shock and gratification in audiences as the excitement builds for where the plot will take the characters next.
One of the best story elements is found in the film is the explanation behind the transformation of the titular antagonist. While I will certainly not tell you, kind reader, what it entails as I do not wish to spoil it for you, what I can tell you is that it was one of the most intelligent and truly unique methods seen in an adaptation of Wells’ work.
Alongside killing it in the storytelling, Whannell has also delivered one of the most stylish and captivatingly directed efforts the horror genre has seen, especially given his smaller budget. The Aussie introduced a fantastic technique in the actioner Upgrade that saw the camera move in-sync with its protagonist in many of its action scenes, and for Invisible Man, he has continued to use the effect in truly fascinating form, adding an extra bit of suspense and style to the few action scenes that appear. Additionally, he uses nearly every opportunity to keep audiences’ eyes peeled with scenes featuring empty space that makes viewers question if it is indeed empty, only helping add on to the suspense.
This review may seem like primarily a love letter to Whannell — admittedly, it kind of is — but his film would definitely not have been the same without the force that was Elisabeth Moss in the lead role. Though audiences are ready to sympathize with her situation right off the bat and believe her pleas of an invisible stalker, the 37-year-old actress keeps her character grounded in her sheer fear of the situation that she can’t bring herself to reasonably explain or convince anyone of the truth. She reacts to every twist and reveal very much the same as the audience and keeps every scene captivating, even as little to nothing happens around her.
In addition to the stellar performance from Moss, Whannell has also found support in the form of Benjamin Wallfisch’s haunting musical score. Though not frequently heard throughout the film and mostly appearing in moments of terror, Wallfisch continues to prove himself one of the best composers of both this generation and the horror genre after his fantastic work in Blade Runner 2049, of which elements can be heard in Invisible Man, and Lights Out.
Overall, there are just a few momentary lapses of logic that occur in the film, but Whannell and company have crafted one of the most intelligent, compelling and absolutely chilling efforts in the horror genre that demands multiple viewings and is primed to sit as the best adaptation of Wells’ novel.
The Invisible Man will arrive in theaters on February 28!