The Invisible Man (dir. Leigh Whannell, 2020) – Convinced that her abusive ex-partner faked his suicide, Cecilia works to prove that she is not going mad and that he is still after her.
In Leigh Whannell’s re-imagining of The Invisible Man, the invisible monster is not a merely a literal depiction. More subtle than a science experiment gone wrong, the evil lies in the intangible form of abuse that is not always perceptible, but often hides in plain sight.
The gaslit victim is Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), who shares a seemingly perfect relationship with tech mogul Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). But behind closed doors, Adrian is a different man. He undermines her, making her believe that she is inadequate and vulnerable without him.
“He said that I could never leave him. He controlled how I looked, and what I wore. Then there was controlling when I left the house, and eventually what I thought,” Cecilia confesses after escaping his prison that was once her home.
Even miles away, she lives in fear for he already has a grip on her. It doesn’t matter whether he is truly there as the proverbial invisible man. It doesn’t even matter if he has (apparently) taken his own life. He will always be there, her memory a constant reminder of his presence.
The reality of the situation makes his mind games feel menacingly real, even before the titular subject makes his appearance. This grounded story comes especially timely in a modern society that has become more aware of toxic relationships and manipulative behaviours.
Anxiety builds more because of the couple’s twisted dynamics than deliberately crafted scares. But the latter has its moments, one well-timed act possibly leaving trauma in its wake.
Tension ratchets up in capable hands. Horror acting veteran Leigh Whannell proves just as adept behind the scenes. He uses space to his advantage, relishing in wide shots and raising hackles where the shadows lurk.
Violence plays second fiddle to the terrifyingly still atmosphere, where Elisabeth Moss sells the dread. Granted that it eventually takes a turn into an over-the-top finale, the psychological thriller delivers a solid retelling of a century-old story that has taken huge leaps in both narrative and technique.
One Universal Classic Monster finally gets a deserving upgrade in Leigh Whannell’s refreshing take that also deals with more familiar invisible monsters.