Traditionally, movies that release in the first months of the year are worrisome because this is usually the time a studio that wants to cut their losses on projects decides to “dump” movies on relatively inactive months and hopefully profit from hungry moviegoers who don’t have anything exciting to see; so, when I saw that a reboot of The Invincible Man was releasing in late January, I was naturally concerned about the quality of the movie. But then I saw that Leigh Whannell – co-creator of Saw and The Insidious franchises – was writing, producing, and directing this modern adaptation, I was immediately on board.
The movie stars Elisabeth Moss and it’s a modern adaptation of the classic novel, where Moss’s character Cecilia has managed to escape from an abusive relationship only to discover that her now ex-boyfriend Adrian has committed suicide and left her an inheritance of millions, on the condition that she is not deemed to be mentally stable and does not commit any crimes for a few weeks; given that this is The Invisible Man, it comes as no surprise that he has invented a suit that makes him invisible and is relentlessly haunting her. It should also come as no surprise that given the talent both in front and behind the camera, this is a great horror movie; this is more mainstream horror rather than indie, but despite the various jump-scares and the demanding suspension of disbelief needed, this is one of the best written and genuinely tense mainstream horror movies of the past few years.
A lot of that has to do with the directing; this is, essentially, a movie about looking at nothing for something. That doesn’t sound promising, but because the movie is incredibly quick and efficient at making us care, sympathize and believe Cecilia, we are also looking at corners of the rooms she’s in and furniture wandering if he’s there or where he could be in the room. In fact, Whannell uses a technique that has proven quite effective in giving entertainment when there’s nothing to see (but in an actually good movie this time). I’m referring to the CCTV-esque camera movement popularized by the Paranormal Activity movies, but here it is intentionally not showing anything to create/add to a sense of paranoia and anxiety, as well as scare the crap out of the audience. Moreover, the jump-scares are put to good use here, as they are not fake scares and serve as a release of tension, but create and add to the growing sense of danger and dread that permeates the movie. My favorite aspect of the directing though comes from Whannell showing an incredible amount of restraint and respect for the viewer’s ability comprehend and surmise parts of the narrative without spelling it out for us. My favorite example of this (and not too spoilery) is when Cecilia breaks down on the floor, crying her eyes out and a character comes to comfort her; as that person leans over, Adrian hits them and that character blames Cecilia; I absolutely adore the fact that him standing there watching someone he “loves” break down and cry, and when someone tries to comfort them, he hits them and leaves the blame to Cecilia, which is a terrifying concept that is left entirely to the audience to surmise.
This should go without saying, but all of these great things fall apart if Elisabeth Moss is anything less than terrific, and she is more than terrific. She is incredibly convincing and believable, as well as entertaining to watch; she brings this sense of paranoia with her at all times and the emotional baggage that weights her down as a character, that allows us as viewers to relate with her, and hope for her to arise in difficult situations. Another aspect of the adaptation that had to be spot on for this movie to work was the modern part of the modern adaptation, and it wasn’t as good as the rest of the movie, but was effective enough; Adrian is supposed to be an optics wizard, which explains how he had the know-how to create the suit, and he is a narcissistic sociopath, which explains his villainy, but I can see how people who like to think too much on real-world logic and give weight to plot-holes and logic loopholes might be unimpressed with the adaptation. For me though, I don’t really care about that stuff and found the modern aspects to be highly entertaining for what the movie is going for.
All in all, The Invisible Man is a great horror movie and a great adaptation with a modern twist. I’ve always looked forward to Whannell’s work and he did not disappoint with his latest project, while Elisabeth Moss shows once again why she is one of the best actors working today. There are some elements of the movie that some may find disappointing, but overall, this is a great movie to watch during this “slow” period.