Well, Blumhouse Productions saved the “Halloween” franchise when it appeared DOA, so guess they’re here to resuscitate the Universal monsters, too.
“The Invisible Man” is a modern telling of the classic H.G. Wells novel, as well as the 1933 film. The reboot stars Elisabeth Moss as a woman who escapes from an abusive relationship, only to begin to believe her former partner (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has found a way to make himself invisible and is stalking her. Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid and Harriet Dyer also star, as Leigh Whannell writes and directs.
Blumhouse is a fascinating beast because for every stinker they put out like “Black Christmas” they’ll create a gem like “Get Out.” However, I’ve written before how I admire and appreciate Blumhouse, as in a world of films becoming products and studios obsessing over creating shared universes they offer filmmakers complete creative control over $5 million budgets. “The Invisible Man” originally was going to be rebooted with Johnny Depp in the title role as part of Universal’s planned “Dark Universe,” however after “The Mummy” was terrible and bombed, that rendition was scrapped. In stepped Blumhouse, who gave the job to Leigh Whannell, who was fresh off the fantastically fun “Upgrade.” And honestly, for Universal, “The Mummy” bombing was the best thing that could have ever happened to their monsters.
Elisabeth Moss has always been one of those actors you know will turn in a solid performance no matter what she’s in (she was one the bright spots of last summer’s perfectly fine “The Kitchen”). Here she plays a woman trying to recover from a broken and abused past, and she portrays the character in such a way that even though we have just been dropped into her word we feel as if we’ve been mistreated, too. Whether it is struggling to step outside simply to get the mail in fear her ex will somehow find her to feeling she is being watched in an empty house, Moss’ facial expressions speak volumes here, and it really is a solid performance that if released later in the year could’ve gotten darkhorse award chatter.
The script by Whannell is basic at some aspects (not too much of the dialogue pops) but in structure I thought it was great. The film opens with Moss’ escape from the abusive home, and from there we get a slowburn of her slow decent into (apparent) madness. Whannell allows the string to tighten before he snaps it, sometimes having his camera linger on a corner or have large spaces on the side of the frame to make our minds wonder if the Invisible Man is watching the characters or not. There are also a handful of great twists, even if some require some more explanation than the film wants to give us, including one that had the woman next to me cover her mouth and gasp. Whannell is quickly making a name for himself as a director to reckoned with, and just like Jordan Peele I can’t wait to see what he does next.
“The Invisible Man” may not be as thought-provoking as other Blumhouse pics like “Get Out” or even “BlacKkKlansman” but it does offer an insight to the struggles of abusive relationships, and how much control one person can have over another. But perhaps more importantly, it is a horror-thriller film that remembers to be unnerving and thrilling, as well as creative, and that is something that Hollywood seems to forget we like to see in our scary movies. The year wasn’t looking great for the genre early on (both “The Turning” and “The Grudge” earned F CinemaScores from audiences), but here is a film that we didn’t see coming to save the day (you didn’t think I’d go this entire review without an invisible pun, did you?). And with “Candyman,” “A Quiet Place: Part II” and the latest “Halloween” sequel on the horizon, the sun seems to be shining down on us horror fans once again.
Critic’s Rating: 8/10