THE INVISIBLE MAN
Running Time: 124 mins.
Where Can You See It?: In theaters now
Premise: After escaping her abusive boyfriend, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) hides out with her cop friend (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter (Storm Reid). A few weeks later, she learns her ex-boyfriend committed suicide. But, all is not what it seems, and Cecilia finds herself being stalked by an invisible force, with nobody to believe her.
Behind-the-Scenes: Universal has long attempted to reinvigorate its classic monsters. Their first attempt was 2010's The Wolfman with Benicio del Toro. It received poor reviews and middling box office. They tried again in 2014 with the misguided Dracula Untold, which turned Dracula into a superhero. That flamed out, so their next move was to mimic Marvel and go for some of that shared universe money by creating the "Dark Universe" - an interconnected series of films starting with Tom Cruise's The Mummy. Budgeted at $120M and only grossing $80M here in the U.S., the Dark Universe never even got off the ground and was quickly shuttered, with future flicks like Frankenstein (with Javier Bardem) and The Invisible Man (with Johnny Depp) shelved.
That's where Jason Blum comes in. Blum is a highly prolific producer who specializes in low-budget horror. Almost every movie he makes turns a profit, so Universal was wise to go with him. The other key move here was to bring in writer-director Leigh Whannell. He's probably best known for writing the first Saw, but has recently found success as a director. If you haven't seen Upgrade yet, you should definitely make that a priority. With a responsible budget of $8M, The Invisible Man is Universal's latest attempt to bring back the classic monsters for a new generation.
The Good: The Invisible Man is a highly effective new spin on the character. Elisabeth Moss gives (another!) tour-de-force performance as Cecilia. Her character is really put through the ringer, and Moss manages to layer hurt, fear, paranoia, strength, and questionable sanity with expert precision. There is a fantastic scene where she speaks to an empty wall that is as riveting as any piece of acting you'll see. Whannell crushes it on both fronts as writer-director. The script is smart - balancing horror, thrills, twists, and even a little noir, and mixing in timely social issues like gaslighting and domestic abuse. Whannell's direction only serves to enhance the script's elements - he deftly uses a number of wide shots, giving ample space on screen between the characters and their surroundings, making the audience wonder where and if the Invisible Man is in the room with them. It never goes for cheap scares, and is economically stylish, with some terrific action set pieces. Benjamin Wallfisch's thunderous score and the sound design both contribute to the intensity, and the opening 10 minutes provide a master class in creating huge suspense with minimal explanation.
The Bad: Some of the twists, much as they keep you guessing, don't really make sense the longer you think about them. Not all of the other actors are up to Moss' level. The ending may turn off some viewers.
Should You See It?: Definitely. This is the first great movie of 2020. Even if you don't consider yourself a "horror person," there's enough here to elevate The Invisible Man beyond the horror genre and make it a must-see.
Star Rating: **** out of 5 stars
Better Than: Hollow Man, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, The Mummy
Worse Than: It Follows, Get Out
* * *