"The Invisible Man" (2020)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Leigh Whannell
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Aldis Hodge

‘A Terrifying Psychological Thriller’

 Over the past decade or so, the horror movie genre has suffered from a dearth of strong female characters. Modern horror movies rely on certain conventions to appeal to mainstream audiences. With their creepy jump scares, supernatural stories and goofy characters, these films follow a successful formula. However, arguably the biggest shortcoming of these films is their stereotypical characterization of females. When telling the stories of women, filmmakers often fall prey to the damsel-in-distress trope. Through this faulty perspective, women are portrayed as helpless victims rather than multi-dimensional people. For these reasons, it is rare to come across strong female protagonists in horror movies.

In a genre that rarely offers authentic portrayals of women, Leigh Whannell’s latest film “The Invisible Man” is like a breath of fresh air. Intense, gripping and terrifying, it uses a strong female protagonist to reinvigorate the genre. With his third feature, writer/director Leigh Whannell has crafted a captivating film about a woman that is haunted by an invisible monster. Packed with gorgeous cinematography, clever storytelling and excellent performances, it is a highly effective horror movie. Although “The Invisible Man” is undeniably frightening, ultimately it is not a flawless film. It is slightly long, and builds to an ambiguous ending that leaves viewers with questions. Nonetheless, it offers exhilarating entertainment that fans of the horror genre won’t be able to resist.

Based on H.G. Wells’ classic novel of the same name, “The Invisible Man” tells the story of a woman that is trapped in an abusive relationship. Elisabeth Moss stars in the lead role as Cecilia Kass, a troubled woman that despises her cruel and wealthy boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Cecilia decides to leave Adrian and start a new life. However, Cecilia’s life forever changes when her boyfriend seemingly commits suicide. As Cecilia grows mentally disturbed, she begins to suspect that her boyfriend is still alive and stalking her in an invisible form.

Writer/director Leigh Whannell is well-versed in the horror movie genre. Ever since he gained worldwide recognition with “Upgrade” in 2018, Whannell has proven to be a fantastic horror filmmaker. His previous film “Upgrade” was praised for its original depiction of a technology geek that acquired superhuman abilities. With “Invisible Man”, however, Whannell has crafted his first adaptation of a classic movie-monster property. It’s the filmmaker’s first attempt to modernize an iconic movie-monster on the big-screen, but he pulls it off seamlessly. Using captivating cinematography, Whannell draws viewers into the life of a woman that is haunted by an invisible entity. From intimate close-ups to anxiety-inducing long shots, the cinematography keeps viewers immersed in the film’s setting. Working alongside cinematographer Stefan Duscio, Whannell creates a stunning film in which each frame is frightening to behold. Whannell excels at immersing viewers in the world of a mentally disturbed woman, and his latest feature is worth watching on the big-screen for this reason alone.

If classic movie-monsters do not attract you to the theater, though, there are still plenty of other reasons to see “The Invisible Man”. The film is extremely well-made, and features the most astonishing cinematic techniques that you’ll ever see in a horror movie. The negative spaces, sound effects and musical score are all carefully chosen, combining to create an immersive movie-going experience. Whannell proves to be an expert at using negative spaces in his movie. Whannell’s decision to shoot the film using negative spaces is risky, but it works tremendously. Whannell effectively uses empty spaces in the frame to signify the ominous presence of the invisible man. Whether it is the empty corridors or isolated rooms, the negative space instills a sense of fear and dread in viewers. Moreover, the musical score is also worth praising. Benjamin Wallfisch’s classical score is highly effective. It gives the film an eerie and suspenseful atmosphere reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. Through phenomenal cinematic techniques, Whannell keeps viewers engrossed in the life of a paranoid woman.

Another admirable aspect of “The Invisible Man” that contributes to its scariness is the screenplay. Leigh Whannell’s screenplay is spectacular, and arguably the main highlight of the movie. Filled with compelling female characters, timely social themes and clever plot twists, the script elevates the movie to another level. Whannell’s greatest strength as a screenwriter is his ability to subvert the expectations of viewers with narrative twists. In Hollywood, most horror movies follow a formulaic plot and stick to strict genre conventions. This often leaves no room for surprises and detracts from the quality of the movie-going experience. Thankfully, though, that is definitely not the case with “The Invisible Man”. Using ingenious plot twists, Whannell crafts a film that is constantly surprising. Plot twists are tricky devices to employ in a mainstream horror movie, but they work immensely in this film. In a genre overrun by predictability, it is truly refreshing to see a movie that is filled with surprises.

In terms of acting, the entire ensemble is at the top of its game. Every star gets the chance to shine, but the film is mainly a stunning showcase for its leading lady.

Elisabeth Moss delivers one of the best performances of her career as Cecilia Kass. This is the actress unlike you’ve ever seen her before: intense, charismatic and vulnerable in her most complex role to date. It is not easy to get into the mindset of a mentally disturbed woman that is haunted by an invisible monster. It’s an emotionally demanding role that puts the actress through the wringer. However, Moss pulls it off effortlessly. With captivating expressions, she conveys the fear, anguish and trauma of a tormented woman that is trapped in an abusive relationship. It’s a powerful performance from one of the most seasoned actresses working today.

The supporting cast is excellent and also worthy of recognition. Aldis Hodge is amazing and brings gravitas to the role of Cecilia’s supportive friend. Michael Dorman is fantastic and sends shivers down your spine as Adrian’s vengeful brother. The final standout is Oliver Jackson-Cohen. As the titular character, he brings an air of menace to the movie.

Although “The Invisible Man” is undeniably a terrifying thriller, ultimately it is not a flawless film. At over two hours, it is slightly long and suffers from a lengthy running-time. Assisted by Benjamin Wallfisch’s electrifying score, Whannell keeps the film moving at an engaging pace during the first hour. However, once the film enters its climax, it starts to lose steam and test the viewer’s patience. Moreover, the film suffers from an ambiguous conclusion. After building nail-biting tension for two hours, Whannell chooses to end the movie on an anticlimactic note. It’s an implausible finale that isn’t entirely effective at bringing the movie to a satisfying closure. Horror movies thrive based on the lasting impact of their endings, and this is where “The Invisible Man” falls short of expectations.

Nevertheless, fans of the horror genre will definitely enjoy “The Invisible Man” and so will movie-goers seeking spine-chilling entertainment. A fabulous piece of filmmaking, it proves that there is room for women to shine in the horror genre. At a time when strong female characters are rarely seen in horror movies, it’s a visible reminder that the stories of tormented women are worth telling on the big-screen.

4/5 stars

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