By Ryan Keating-Lambert
The Invisible Man is one of the best films of the year, and most certainly one of the best Blumhouse films, maybe ever. Extremely unsettling and Hitchcockian in nature, Leigh Whannell’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic is not only a masterful exercise in slow-burn suspense, but a chilling commentary on domestic abuse.
When Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) manages to escape the clutches of her abusive husband, strange happenings begin to unfold and she’s led to believe that she’s being hunted by something she can’t see.
I’m a fan of The Invisible Man films. There’ve been countless over the years – from Universal classics to Kevin Bacon’s Hollow Man, it’s a genre that’s been firmly rooted in in horror for some time, getting regular remakes to keep up with advances in CGI tech. But THIS… This is so razor sharp that it stands proudly on its own two (invisible) feet.
Rather than taking us down that typical horror road, Australian director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Saw), takes us on a terrifying trip into the violent trauma of Cecilia, which just never quits. The director, who started out working with James Wan, takes the ‘peeping tom by the window’ to new levels with this slow-burn reveal of the mysterious spectre looming in the hallway and taking pictures of you while you sleep, which is only made stronger by Moss’ superb performance and genuine terror.
Expect effective jump scares for the hardcore horror fan, but also a thick blanket of dread which smothers San Francisco in a way I’ve never seen. Director of photography Stefan Duscio, who also worked on Upgrade, smothers the film in cobalt blues, long tracking shots and extreme close-ups, firmly planting you in Cecilia’s head as she begins to unravel, and unravel she does. The mainly classical score by Benjamin Walfisch is the ultimate mood enhancer though, and boasts an almost Vertigo or Rear Window feel to it.
On top of that, is the ingenious sound design – the nail-biter of an opening scene in which Cecilia is sneaking out of the beach-side mansion to leave her husband in the middle of the night, is heightened even more by the crashing of the waves on the nearby shore.
The film feels very Hitchcock at times in the way that it manages to sustain its air of mystery and of course, its tension, especially in the asylum scene which in hindsight, feels like a very well-directed and subtle tribute to that iconic scene in Terminator 2.
But it’s the haunting message that the film hammers home which hits the hardest, especially with the timing of Harvey Weinstein’s recent verdict – it feels almost like poetry. Those who are subjected to abusive relationships are quite often led to believe that it’s their fault. It’s a vicious cycle and not everyone comes out deserving what they get, and this film makes for a fascinating case study on that.
The Invisible Man will grip you like no other film this year. I was shaken to the core. Go and see it immediately. Whannell knows how to do horror, and Moss is a force to be reckoned with. Try to avoid the trailer. Go in knowing as little about this as you can.
Now showing in Czech cinemas.