The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE INVISIBLE MAN | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

New Release Review - THE INVISIBLE MAN

the invisible man review
Following her abusive partner's suicide, a woman begins to suspect he is still stalking her as an unseen presence.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Leigh Whannell

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer

the invisible man poster


When it comes to recent reboots of existing properties, Hollywood has lazily adopted a 'bigger is better' approach. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Universal's dusting off of their classic monsters, with The Wolfman, Dracula and The Mummy all reworked as mega-budget action fests with more in common with contemporary superhero movies than with the fogbound horrors of the 1930s and '40s. It's refreshing then that for his take on The Invisible Man, writer/director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) has gone for the opposite approach. Where James Whale's masterful 1933 version of H.G. Wells' story saw its titular transparent terrorist commit murder on a mass scale on a self-proclaimed reign of terror, Whannel's film gives us considerably lower stakes, injecting his imperceptible antagonist into what is essentially a Lifetime woman in peril thriller.

the invisible man review


Whannel begins his tale in reassuringly confident fashion, opening at a narrative point that most modern movies would take an entire first act to reach. In a nail-biting sequence, we watch as Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) wakes up in the middle of the night and flees the lavish, clifftop home of her mad scientist lover, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), whose controlling nature has seen Cecilia live the last couple of years in a state of fear. What's great about this sequence is how Whannel offers us visual clues that help fill in our blanks regarding Cecilia and Adrian's backstory. It really is a marvellous piece of economic visual storytelling, as good as anything I've seen in genre cinema in recent years.

[ READ MORE: London Film Festival 2019 Review - Color Out of Space ]

Cecilia is taken in by her cop friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), but she remains a nervous wreck, too terrified to leave the house. Until, that is, when she is relieved to learn that Adrian has committed suicide. Inheriting his millions, it seems all is now well for Cecilia, but she has a nagging sense that Adrian is still around. She feels a presence in rooms when she's alone. She arrives for a job interview to find her briefcase is missing the portfolio she most definitely packed before leaving the house. Her sister (Harriet Dyer) cuts off contact after receiving a spiteful email which Cecilia knows she never composed. Somehow, Adrian seems to be stalking and gaslighting Cecilia from beyond the grave.

the invisible man review


Of course, we know the truth of the 'somehow' - he's only gone and found a way to make himself see-through. Given his movie is titled The Invisible Man, Whannel wisely doesn't waste any time revealing this, but what he does hold back on are some important answers to nagging questions that drove me crazy. At times I felt as gaslit by the movie as its heroine is by its villain. These questions range from minor plot discrepancies like "How did character X get from A to B in the same time as character Y without a car?", to the meteorite sized plothole of how Adrian faked his death. Some of these questions are eventually answered, while some are left dangling, but even when we get answers it's too late, as we've been so distracted by what felt like plot inconsistencies that our level of engagement has dropped substantially.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - True History of the Kelly Gang ]

It's a shame that Whannel's script is structured in a manner that forces us to second guess it rather than become wrapped up in the drama, because his direction is top-notch. The cattleprod jump scares of his former filmmaking partner James Wan are thankfully absent here. Whannel favours a more classical, suspenseful method of building atmosphere through a combination of eerie silence, suspiciously empty areas of the frame and slow pans that have a curiously unsettling way of suggesting the camera is visually aware of the whereabouts of the eponymous villain even if the rest of us aren't.

the invisible man review


Things begin to go astray however in a mid point set-piece that makes us start to question the logistics of Adrian's invisibility, and an initially clever incident involving some splashed  paint revealing his silhouette is almost immediately undercut by a scene that makes no sense in its context. In the climax, which veers a little too close to superhero territory for this writer's liking, Whannel cops out by largely ditching his villain's invisibility, and we're ultimately left pining for the dazzling inventiveness of Whale's 1933 classic, whose effects are more thrilling than anything found here, despite their vintage.

The Invisible Man is in UK/ROI cinemas February 28th.




2020 movie reviews