Friday, February 28, 2020

The Invisible Man - Review

Remember those grand plans of a Dark Universe just a few short years ago? And how quickly they vanished with the failure of its first entry? Though a connected series of films that would’ve seen numerous stars in the monstrous roles may no longer be in the cards, Universal is determined to use the classic monsters in some fashion, and The Invisible Man proves that the smaller, simpler approach may just be the route to go.

After staging his own suicide, a crazed scientist (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) uses his power to become invisible to stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss). When the police refuse to believe her story, she decides to take matters into her own hands and fight back

Outside of the failed attempt to start a shared universe, Universal Studios, with some help from Blumhouse, might have the best grasp on how to properly execute big studio horror. There is no reason that The Invisible Man should be any more successful than the other early year releases, and yet, on a small budget of $7 million, it looks and certainly sounds better than some big budget blockbusters.

It also isn’t reliant on the constant jump scares of other movies, choosing to utilize an unrelenting emotional torture and tension, anchored by a committed performance from Elisabeth Moss. The actress has received no shortage of praise over the years, but here, she follows the path of other tremendous horror performances from the last few years that’s bound to be forgotten by awards voting bodies. Moss is a powerhouse, this film reiterates that, and elevates the already good material into something terrific and way better than it has any business being.

Credit should also go to writer-director Leigh Whannell, who once again crafts a twisting, surprising horror film with a just a slight underlying theme of a real world issue, much like he did with Upgrade back in 2018. For this film, that theme follows a trajectory not unlike that of so many stories from the #MeToo movement. A woman is traumatized by an abusive, controlling relationship, and when that person continues to haunt her, not a soul believes her, even going so far as to question her sanity. It’s still a horror film, and a major studio production at that, so it doesn’t devote its entire time to those themes, but it’s still there and it makes the whole film sting even more.

The Invisible Man marks a noticeable improvement in Universal’s approach to the classic monsters they so desperately want to make relevant again. It seems fairly clear that they gave Leigh Whannell a monster, and let him create the story around it, without any need to connect to a secretive organization or some mysterious crossover. Instead, the film is relatively small, telling the story of a woman fighting and clawing her way out of a nightmare on multiple occasions, with or without anyone’s help.

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