Leigh Whannell was still relatively unknown when he signed on to make The Invisible Man for Universal and Jason Blum, but Whannell has had a very successful career and most will recognise his face from films such as the first Saw and the Insidious -films. Not only did Whannell act in these, he also wrote these and with Saw, certainly helped to kickstart an entire sub-genre of horror, the rather unpleasingly named torture porn.
Although Whannell helmed Insidious: Chapter 3 (perfectly fine, if a little uninspired), it was 2018’s Upgrade that really made him a respected genre director and without a doubt, helped him get the gig for The Invisible Man. Everything that makes The Invisible Man so compelling and impressive, is already present in Upgrade.
The Invisible Man follows Cecilia Kass (the ever-brilliant Elizabeth Moss), who escapes her abusive partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) had no idea about Adrian’s abusive behaviour, but their minds are set at ease when news that Adrian has killed himself emerge. Cecilia feels still uneasy, although when Adrian’s brother Tom reveals Adrian left everything to Cecilia, things certainly seem to perk up. That is until Cecilia begins to suspect Adrian isn’t quite as dead as he might seem.
The Invisible Man is a tense, terrifying affair, especially if you’re a woman. Every scene is crafted carefully, meticulously and Whannell’s talent as a filmmaker shines here. The film’s expert production and sound designs, aided by superb cinematography by Stefan Duscio, create tension effortlessly. Whannell dares to rely on silence rather than just loud sound effects for scares and the use of negative space within the frames is inspired. No room in the entire film feels safe, every space offering several hiding places for the invisible man, all in plain sight. The audience will undoubtedly end up scanning the screen nervously, trying to find evidence of Adrian’s existence, while clenching their fists tighter than they want to admit.
Moss, always great and reliable, is here refreshingly unhinged. She fully leans into Cecilia’s damaged mind, the result of possibly years of abuse in Adrian’s hands and, at times, it feels entirely possible that Adrian is indeed dead and Cecilia is simply hallucinating her experiences. Moss brings to life what so many women encounter with a lot of vulnerability, but also plenty of inner strength, creating a surprisingly complex character. The horror here isn’t a guy in a suit, it’s the abuse itself and the lasting effects of it.
The opening sequence of Cecilia making a break for it into the night from Adrian’s lavish home is brilliantly crafted. Whannell utilises our expectations to his gain, tricking us into believing generic scares, like revealing someone standing behind a character in a mirror, are going to happen, except nothing happens. Once again, you’re sitting at the edge of your seat, waiting for the scare to come, but it never does. It immediately makes us relate to Cecilia’s terror in a completely new way.
Although Moss, like all the supporting cast, is great, this is very much Whannell’s show. The entire premise is a stroke of genius, but The Invisible Man works so well because it works both as a straight up thriller and as a closer examination of abusive relationships and the damage they do. This is the entire package; barely a thing is wrong, nothing feels out of place and the whole film feels tight, like the most satisfying puzzle where everything just fits. This is not to say The Invisible Man is perfect and features no plot holes; the restaurant scene is a little convenient and some supporting characters feel side-lined, but in general, The Invisible Man simply works. It will terrify you out of your wits and features an ending that is as controversial as it is satisfying. The Invisible Man should make Leigh Whannell into a household name and cements him as a talented genre director, who understands not only the craft of filmmaking but the art of storytelling.
Dir: Leigh Whannell
Scr: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Prd: Jason Blum, Kylie Du Fresne
DOP: Stefan Duscio
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch
Country: United States / Australia
Run time: 124 minutes
The Invisible Man is available on Blu-Ray and DVD June 29th.