By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
How does a filmmaker adapt/remake a classic horror story and make it something unique and able to stand on its own? That obviously is the million dollar question going into this modern update of a celebrated H.G. Wells story. Well, writer/director Leigh Whannell has accomplished this feat by taking the bare bones and foundations of the story and giving it a powerful and resonant twist. Whannell, who broke into the horror genre working with friend James Wan on the Saw and the Insidious series, also made his foray into science fiction with his remarkable and ingenious action flick Upgrade. With his version of The Invisible Man, the talented filmmaker blends both genres into a truly exceptional blend that delivers nerve-wracking suspense and a good amount of shocks and surprises.
Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia Kass, a tormented and abused woman who must escape the psychological and physical pain and suffering inflicted on her by her controlling and sociopathic boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Though Cecilia manages to escape and find shelter through her cop sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) and her sister’s partner, Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), she finds herself traumatized and fearful that Adrian will find her. When Emily informs Cecilia that Adrian has committed suicide, everyone is a bit relieved at first. However, not long afterward, Cecilia begins to suspect that Adrian may have faked his own death and is secretly watching her and waiting to strike.
The Invisible Man is THE movie that shows Whannell reaching the peak of his horror filmmaking skills and is another example of his ingenious story telling. Whannell is definitely adept at creating tension, building suspense and arousing creepy chills from his audience. He also exercises skillful timing for shocking his audiences at just the right moments and does so here without any insulting cheap parlor tricks. Working with director of photography Stefan Duscio, editor Andy Canny, and a competent effects team helps see his vision to fruition. Adding the terrific score by Benjamin Wallfisch to the mix proves to be the whipped cream and cherry on top that make this film the complete experience.
I also have to hand it to Whannell for coming up with a tremendous script that resonates with real human sociological and psychological issues. Whannell takes on abusive relationships and gas lighting in such a powerful way that adds to the horror elements of the film. Yet, he does this in a way that never cvomes across as exploitation or gratuitous. Overall, his commentary is so spot-on that it adds more depth to the story and his characters.
In the lead role, Elisabeth Moss gives a wonderful performance as Cecilia Kass, a smart, but traumatized woman trying to heal and find her inner strength, but is continually tested by her new challenges. Aldis Hodge also shines as Cecilia’s friend and protector Detective James Lanier. As Cecilia’s tormenting boyfriend Adrian Griffin, Oliver Jackson-Cohen gives a rather disturbing and unnerving turn. The movie also features great acting by Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, and Michael Dorman.
So, even though Universal tried to launch a reboot of their classic monsters with an attempt at a Dark Universe (starting with 2017’s The Mummy), it seems that in their haste they couldn’t come up with a singular compelling story that can stand on its own without any connections with any future installments. This failure helped bring things back to basics and Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man is the right approach to rebooting an iconic and classic horror story. I honestly couldn’t care less if they wish to use this stellar achievement to launch another movie universe because this movie, alone, is great as a singular piece.