In 2018, director Leigh Whannell blessed humanity with the beautiful and badass motion picture by the name of Upgrade. After that wonder of a film, I was an official Whannell Fanboy. Upgrade didn’t make anywhere near as much as it should have, but that didn’t matter much. Because my boy Whannell knows how to budget a film. Before he started directing, Leigh was a writer. And one of his first credits for writing Saw, the textbook example of a brilliantly budgeted film. This budgetary restraint and creative filmmaking is a constant throughout his work, and it has never been more impressive than in The Invisible Man.`But it doesn’t make it feel cheap or limiting, it feels intentional and precise. The effects are here to serve the story instead of the other way around. And it’s one hell of a story.
Despite this being a remake, Whannell’s The Invisible Man is one of the most creative and daring movies that I have ever seen. Especially in the horror genre. Similar to Upgrade, this movie has a brilliant concept that is fully explored and perfectly realized. Everything interesting and/or terrifying that they could do with an unseeable boy, they do. But he’s not just an unseeable boy. The concept’s brilliance is in how it takes the inherently scary idea of an invisible man and uses it to heighten and personify a real life terror. If you strip the film down, it’s about a woman who is being abused and controlled by a powerful man, but nobody believes her. That is a terrifying position that too many people are stuck in, and the film being a remake of The Invisible Man is the perfect way to bring that terror to the horror genre in an accessible and self-evident way. Horror is a genre that can capture distinct and deeply human emotions in a way that no other genre can. But I think horror is at it’s best when it can appease to both people who search for a deeper meaning and people who just want a fun and scary time at the movies. As shown by this last paragraph, it certainly serves the first group, but is it scary?
When it comes to most horror movies, I’m not easily frightened. I’ve seen a butt-ton of spooky flicks, and there is a formula that most scares follow that has become ineffective for me as of late. But The Invisible Man throws that formula out the window, and focuses on doing it’s best at juking me out.
Because I’ve seen a good many flicks, my brain can usually gauge what kind of scene I’m looking at.
“Oh! Spooky violin music’s kicked in, lotsa drawn out shots, the lighting’s gone down, the person is asking if anyone is there, looks like we’re in for a spook. Gotta prepare my eyes!”
“Ok. We’ve just gotten a few spooks. It looks like this scene’s going to do some exposition dumping. Let’s chill for a second. Maybe reflect on the movie thus far. I don’t need to prepare my eyeballs for terror for a good 6 minutes.”
These mindsets work for most horror, but The Invisible Man catches me with my pants down. I’ll be in the second mindset, maybe settling into my comfy seat and thinking about how much I’m loving this good good film, then BAM! SURPRISE DUMBASS! IT’S SPOOKY TIME! Mr. Whannell yanks the rug out from under me and I’m rendered powerless and spooked while letting out an incomprehensible exclamation along the lines of “SCWAABABOOBA!”
And on the other side of the spectrum, the film will get me in the Spooky Time mindset with brilliant cinematography and sound design, but nothing happens. It feels like the film is toying with the audience in the same way that Adrian Griffin (the film’s villain) is toying with Cecilia (our lead). And when the action does go down, it is visually striking and beyond terrifying. And when the invisible suit is revealed for the first time, I had a feeling that I was witnessing the birth of a horror icon. And that hospital scene… whoo mama!
But juking out an audience can only get you so far. Ask The Lodge. Luckily this movie has some of the best acting around and a tight and clever screenplay for those actors to work with. The characters here are super likable and flawed, creating a cast of characters that you legitimately feel worried for. Elizabeth Moss in particular gives an outstanding performance that is on the same level as the horror greats. Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of The Lambs, Lupita Nyong’o in Us, Elizabeth Moss in The Invisible Man.
The Invisible Man is what horror should be. It’s what remakes should be. It’s what movies should be. And I would be a fool not to give it my rating of…
MASTAPEECE!! WE GOTTA MASTAPEECE OVER HERE!!