To say that Universal’s “Dark Universe” was an abject failure would be quite the understatement. However, from the ashes of its destruction comes the potential for revisiting old classics without having to unnaturally force them into a shared universe. The Invisible Man is one such example.
Screenwriter/director Leigh Whannell has proven once again that he can tell a compelling story that’s tense, thought-provoking, all while subverting expectations. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look (no pun intended) at The Invisible Man!
(100% Spoiler Free)
The film begins with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) in the middle of the night, tiptoeing around the house ever so quietly, to collect her packed bags and make her escape from her abusive husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).
Despite only seeing him sleep, we feel the immense tension and fear that he’s instilled in Cecilia. We see her move so carefully and quietly, looking terrified at every slight noise. After a close call, she eventually manages to escape with the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer).
From there, she stays with a police officer friend James (Aldis Hodge), and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). And even though she’s escaped, the trauma of abuse still lingers, and merely stepping out the front door is a huge milestone for her.
Following the news that Adrian committed suicide, Cecilia begins to be plagued by strange occurrences and the feeling that he is still there abusing her, even though she can’t see him. As the assaults from her unseen attacker escalate, everyone around Cecilia believes that she’s losing her mind, but she refuses to quit in her mission to fight back and expose him.
Recycling an Old Story
It’s always difficult retelling a story that’s been adapted so many times over the last century, but Leigh Whannell’s greatest achievement with this iteration is updating it with modern themes and a science fiction element that seems just within the realm of believability.
His work on Upgrade clearly honed his skills in directing stylized action scenes that involve unique camera movements. Very often, we see from the Invisible Man’s POV and it’s very effective in preventing the action from looking cheesy.
Each time he strikes at an unsuspecting person there’s a brutality to it where we the audience feel every hit and cringe. One of the most effective things the film does is not showing us very much of Adrian or any flashbacks to his marriage with Cecilia.
By keeping him as a mysterious force, it makes him all the more terrifying. When asked why he chose to tell the story from the perspective of the victim rather than the titular character, Leigh Whannell explained, “When you know your villain too well, you dilute their power.”
It would have been very easy to show scenes of him abusing her, but to do so would seem an unnecessary portrayal in violence against women, plus the fear in her eyes tells us so much more than a scene ever could.
A Film with Something to Say
At its core, The Invisible Man uses horror and sci-fi elements to tell a story of how lasting trauma and abuse can really be. One of the most satisfying things to see is Cecila gaining the strength and courage to fight back.
In many ways, this film succeeds where 2019’s Black Christmas failed miserably. The latter beat the audience over the head with its message, lacking all semblance of subtlety or nuance, while the former simply told a compelling story and allowed the audience to interpret what it was trying to say.
Overall, The Invisible Man is a brilliantly tense story, that holds nothing back, and has an ending (which we won’t spoil) that’s both thought-provoking, and even a little morally ambiguous.
Clearly, the sacrifice of Universal’s Dark Universe wasn’t for nothing, because it has the potential to give us awesome standalone horror films like this!
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