Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) has a real problem: an abusive, gaslighting, rich inventor of a boyfriend who is controlling every aspect of her life. She hatches a grand escape plan and succeeds, hiding out in hopes he will never find her again. After his apparent suicide, she is finally free of his sadistic ways, but his shadow lingers dark and cold over her recovery. She is getting better, but then some odd things begin to happen, and Cecilia feels like maybe her ex isn’t dead after all, but instead able to move around invisibly, to torment and control her once again. She is certain, in fact, that he is not dead, but when she tries to prove it, she is met with skepticism and pity. From here, it becomes pretty clear, she’s either crazy, or she’s right.
The original Invisible Man was a Universal film based on an old H.G. Wells story and starred Claude Rains as the mad scientist who gets increasingly insane as the movie plays out. We follow his tragic decline as the formula he used to make himself invisible also makes him quite deranged. “An invisible man can rule the world!” he proclaims. His inevitable defeat and death is heartbreaking, but you understand why it is happening. In this modern remake, we get the perspective of the victim of the narcissistic madman. We get to see what it’s like to truly be tormented by a mad genius, and it’s this twist on the formula that gives the new version all the power it needs to become not only a taunt, exciting horror thriller, but to also become a commentary on modern society and relationships.
If ever there was a #MeToo or an #IBelieveHer film, it’s this one right here. It is a masterclass in revealing and exposing just what a victim of mental, physical, and sexual abuse undergoes. Cecilia is tormented in the real world by her boyfriend and when she finally gets free, she finds that he still holds a psychological control over her, tormenting her mental and spiritual being even after she finds out he is dead. The film exposes the terror real-life women undergo when put through this grinding horror and the subsequent consequences of this abuse on both them and the family surrounding them. It does so in a real, honest, emotional way, and Elizabeth Moss delivers an amazing performance. I mean, amazing. She gets down to the quick of the pain and agony and does not flinch. On top of this, when the boyfriend returns, invisible and very strong, and torments her anew, nobody believes her. They all think she is losing her mind. And to be fair, if any person was raving that someone had faked their death and was now invisibly assailing them, most of us would think they were crazy, too. This is another honest moment, making the friends and supporters of the abuse victim somewhat (innocently) complicit in their loved one’s torment. But again, this is played in a very real way, and we see Cecilia’s suffering, as her mental and physical worlds begin to break down from this renewed torture. However, despite all that is against her, Cecilia rallies and fights back, with dogged strength and determination. This is the victim turning into the victor, and not just physically, but deceptively mentally as well. This is feminism; this is overcoming abuse. She takes the power back.
Oh, and in the midst of all of this societal and personal commentary, there’s a crackling good horror movie, too. The set-pieces are outstanding (the attic sequence and especially the hospital one towards then end are masterfully done). Lots of Hitchcock in this movie, but the darker Hitch, the one who bludgeoned the world with Psycho. Make no mistake; this is a horror film, flat out. The torture and gaslighting that Cecilia undergoes is more horrifying than any ghost or demonic possession. Yes, she is stalked and those around her suffer immeasurably, but the personal anguish and terror is off the charts.
Beat by beat, director Leigh Whannell ratchets up the tension until it is unbearable. And then he piles on more because, you know, you’re in the hands of a modern Master of Horror, and he’s not shy to flex those muscles. The film starts off in a nail-biting place and only gets more intense from there. If you’ve got a weak heart, stay far away.
Invisible Man delivers on all fronts. There is amazing suspense, terrifying terror, madness, raw horror, and personal stakes that feel very, very real. This film succeeds both as a thriller and as an emotional revelation, and it is excellent at both, neither one overshadowing the other. A must see for any horror fan.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews, he likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.com