You know those unexplainable things that go bump in the night? Have you ever felt your skin crawl when entering an empty room? Do you freak out when your pet suddenly stares past you at something on the wall only it can apparently see? Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man asks us to go with those feelings and commit to the possibility there is something unseen and malevolent lurking not only in dark corners but also in brightly lit hospital rooms.
The Invisible Man delves into the dysfunctional relationship of Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) and Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a man with tremendous anger issues and violent urges. Without speaking a word, the opening scenes of writer/director Leigh Whannell’s latest horror film convey the danger Cecilia feels and her fear of never being able to escape this abusive relationship.
A dog bowl rattles as she stealthily sneaks through their massive home at night, flipping off alarms on her way out, and carrying only a small travel bag. The sense of dread is palpable, and Whannell expertly delivers a few genuine jump scares while swiftly setting up the couple’s relationship.
Cecilia never truly feels out from under Adrian’s thumb even after they’re miles apart. And although a grizzly turn of events makes Adrian’s actual threatening presence in her life highly unlikely, Cecilia becomes convinced she’s being stalked and threatened by an invisible Adrian.
Aldis Hodge (City on a Hill) plays Officer James Lanier, a friend of Cecilia’s sister (Harriet Dyer, The Other Guy) and dad to Sydney (Storm Reid, Euphoria). It’s to the safety of James’ house that Cecilia runs, becoming almost agoraphobic in her need to stay out of sight.
James is a calming presence amid the noisiness of Cecilia’s shattered mental state. It’s only when Sydney’s put in danger that Cecilia’s forced to confront the invisible presence she believes is haunting her every move.
Is Cecilia having a breakdown or does Adrian roam the rooms and hallways unseen by anyone but felt by his terrified ex? The fact we’re not quite sure and the possibility wavers between the two choices over a significant portion of the film is a credit to Elisabeth Moss’ brilliant acting and Whannell’s script and direction.
The title character is, of course, invisible for much of the running time yet his presence looms large over every scene. Stefan Duscio’s camerawork frames scenes to include empty chairs and allows what would appear to be unnecessary space to be in focus surrounding Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia. That blank space feels like a menacing living, breathing character as Cecilia’s paranoia increases.
Whannell’s The Invisible Man doesn’t spare the gore nor does it skimp on jump scares. It also doesn’t telegraph its every move, delivering a final act that most won’t see coming.
MPAA Rating: R (for some strong bloody violence, and language)
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2020