The Invisible Man (2020) Review

WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE CAN STILL HURT YOU


 

In today’s day and age of current horror motion pictures, Blumhouse Productions has certainly become the more prominent film studio to produce plenty of features of the horror variety. While the production / studio company has indeed done other genres in the past for its releases with movies like the Tooth Fairy, Whiplash, Jem and the Holograms, and BlacKkKlansman, their main focus has been the horror genre; finding plenty of theatrical releases of slashers, scares, and supernatural variations. However, the success of these horror movies from Blumhouse has indeed been a bit mixed, with some of the more highlighted ones being The Gift, Spilt, Halloween, and Get Out, while others such as Truth or Dare, The Boy Next Door, The Black Christmas, and Fantasy Island scrap the bottom of the barrels for less favorable entertainment value. Now, Blumhouse Productions (and Universal Pictures) and director Leigh Whannell present the latest release from Blumhouse with the remake of the iconic horror classic The Invisible Man. Does this modernize iteration of the famous horror character / premise work is not “swing and miss” from Blumhouse?

THE STORY


After leaving a trapped life of being in a relastionship to her controlling and abusive partner, Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) decides to leave her tech visionary mogul husband, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen); drugging the man and slipping out of their Bay Area mansion in the dead of night. After escaping, Cecilia ends up in the care of her sister, Alice (Harriet Dyer), moving in with longtime pal James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid). Trying to take back control of her life after learning of sudden news of Adrian committing suicide, Cecilia slowly comes around to new domestic routine, but is caught off-guard when it’s announced that she will inherit a large fortune of money (left by Adrian). However, creeping into this sense of peace and wealth is an invisible force only Cecilia seems to perceive, growing evermore paranoid that Adrian hasn’t actually died, but faked his passing, planning to exact revenge on her for leaving him. With growing concern from her sister and from James, Cecilia spins wildly out of control, believing to be a haunted by an invisible figure that is Adrian as he toils and spins her sanity out of control. Now, it’s up to Cecilia to figure out the truth of the matter or to settle into the fact that she’s going crazy?

THE GOOD / THE BAD


I’ve stated many sometimes on several reviews that I’m not the keenest on horror movies. I will never discredit anyone likes them, but they are usually my “cup of tea”. However, I’ve beginning to appreciate the genre a bit more of late, with certain horror films being to my liking. Maybe I’m finally embracing the horror genre at last or maybe some horror movies are getting better. It’s hard to say. As mentioned above, I’ve noticed that Blumhouse has indeed become one of the more “premiere” production / studios to release numerous horror motion pictures in today’s recent market (i.e. over the past five years). Since I started blogging and doing movie reviews, a large portion of my horror movies that I’ve seeing are from Blumhouse, with some to my liking (i.e. Spilt, Glass, Happy Death Day 2U, Get Out, and several others). However, as I said, Blumhouse has a “mixed bag” of some of its release, especially in some of the feature films that range mediocre to terrible. Well, I guess that goes with the territory. Still, for better or worse, Blumhouse Productions continues to make “cinematic waves” within the horror genre and (probably) for years to come.

Naturally, this brings me back to talking about The Invisible Man, a 2020 horror film that’s both a release from Blumhouse as well as a remake of the iconic horror villain. Loosely based on H.G. Well’s novel of the same name, the history of The Invisible Man has had a long history with filmmaking, with the famous 1933 film titled “The Invisible Man”, which went down in movie monster history. There was an idea to revive The Invisible Man character for a more updated version, which was gonna tie into Universal’s shared monster cinematic universe titled Dark Universe; complying tied together feature films of legendary monsters, including Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde. However, while 2017’s The Mummy, which was went to “kick start” the Dark Universe franchise, critically and finically bombed at the box office and with critics / moviegoers alike, the idea for a shared universe went cold. However, Universal wanted to still do the Invisible Man movie, which was then brought to Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, who reorganized the movie to stand on its own (instead of being part of the original Dark Universe series) to create the 2020 The Invisible Man feature. Sorry of the history lesson, but I thought that it was important. So, as you can imagine, I did hear a lot of about this movie, with a lot of “buzz” about it floating on the internet. The film’s movie trailer was released a few months back and it definitely caught my interest. However, I was still a little bit leery about the project, especially since it was the remnant fact of the failed Dark Universe and was being produced by Blumhouse and released after the horrible 2020 remake of Fantasy Island. Still, with plenty of advance reviews praising the movie, I decided to check out the movie out during its opening weekend. And what did I think of it? Well, it was definitely better than what I was expecting it to be. While it isn’t the all-time greatest (stumbling in a few areas), 2020’s The Invisible Man remake puts whole fresh new spin of the timeless horror classic with genuine true thrills, scares, and a strong performance from its lead. It doesn’t redefine the horror genre, but it definitely one of the solid entries from Blumhouse Productions.

The Invisible Man is directed by Leigh Whannell, whose previous directorial works include such films as Upgrade and Insidious: Chapter 3. Thus, with a filled more in the screenwriting realm, Whannell makes The Invisible Man her third directorial debut film and certainly does a great job in the director’s chair: approaching material with a great understanding of handling / care than some of the more recent remakes / adaptations of horror movies of late. With that in mind, Whannell showcases a feature that certainly challenges the filmmaker’s talents, but is quite capable in staging some slick and tense action with some genuine thrillers and suspense along the way. Naturally, the hidden monster of the “Invisible Man” is the more promising and suspenseful pieces that Whannell plays up to strength the tension in the feature’s scenes. This ultimately does work as the movie’s events escalate and having the phantom figure go on the offensive in terrorizing Cecilia, who, in turn, must learn to adapt to the situation; uncovering the truth as faces off against the violent invisible attacker. Whannell’s direction certainly works for these particular moments, which do create many scenes seamless real and uncomfortable…even though they might seem a bit goofy / cartoon-ish a few times. In the end, Whannell plays up the premise of The Invisible Man, but infuses plenty of well-earned thrills and scares to make the feature entertaining and engrossing.

Whannell also pulls “double duty” on the film, with the directing of the feature as well as the penned the movie’s script. While than trying to make The Invisible Man uber violent and shallow with mediocre novelties and nuances within its narration, Whannell shapes the film to have more of a commentary message within its cinematic underlay; projecting a woman who is placed in a extraordinary situation of a abusive husband who terrorizes her through his physical trauma as well as mental instability. Of course, the situation in the movie is quite “fantastical”, but the common theme can be easily extrapolated / reflected upon many abusive relationships for not just women, but also in men, children, and other acquaintances. In that regard, The Invisible Man scores big points for me.

In terms of presentation, The Invisible Man is rather good. Of course, the movie doesn’t offer expansive and exotic locations, so there isn’t a heightened sense of background / setting aesthetics to promote in the movie, with the project being more focused on its characters and relative immediate problem with Cecilia and the “invisible” phantom that torments her. That being said, the overall “look and feel” of the movie is quite presentable and pleasing to look at. Plus, the Bay Area mansion that belongs to Adrian (as well as the sleek / modern interior rooms) are quite interesting and cool to see. Thus, the set locations and set decorations by Katie Sharrock and art direction by Alice Lanagan should be applauded for their efforts on the project. In addition, the film’s visual effects, while not the biggest highlight of the movie, are pretty good and get the job done in project the “invisible man” outfit. Even the film’s score, which was composed by Benjamin Wallfisch, delivers a promising composition, with plenty of tense / jarring musical piece to build up suspense as well as some powerful orchestral nuances in a few areas. All other areas in the movie are good and certainly meet the “industry standards” of today’s movies. Thus, all in all, The Invisible Man looks visually good (no harm, no foul).

Despite a strong premise in its undertaking, The Invisible Man does struggle in a few areas that, while not derailing the feature from being enticing and entertaining, certainly makes the film stumble in several areas. How so? Well, right from the get-go, the movie isn’t exactly original. Yes, I do get that it is commonplace remake of sorts of the iconic horror villain tropes is certainly the “bread and butter” of the film, but nothing really gets anything added or relatively new beyond the concept of an invisible suit and updated the setting to contemporary modern-day era. Thus, the movie is predictable to the letter. There are a few surprises here and there, but nothing totally major as there’s a proven formula that The Invisible Man follows to a fault. Whether that’s Whannell fault for not challenging the movie’s direction far enough or in the script handling of the feature’s narrative / events is left unanswered. Regardless, The Invisible Man is quite predictable is quite easy to see where the film’s progression goes from onset to conclusion.

In truth, if a viewer glances at the movie trailer for the film, it pretty much explains the entire movie; condensing the basic premise within two-minute presentation. The problem, the setup, and several big moments in the film are heavily telegraphed in the trailer and basically that’s what happens in the movie. To this point, it was a bit underwhelming, especially since the trailer told you everything you needed to know about the film (except the third act resolution). Thus, despite overall engaging idea of a film, nothing was a surprise in the movie. This, of course, goes back to the idea that some movie trailers are cut / organized in a way that reveals too much and sort of ruins the movie that it’s trying to promote. So, what’s the best way to see the movie? Basically…don’t watch the trailer for The Indivisible Man. You’ll be better off without seeing it.

In addition, the movie does seem a little bit sluggish at times, with several pacing issues that the film can’t overcome. I was quite shocked (before seeing the movie) that The Invisible Man’s runtime was 124 minutes (two hours and four minutes), which is somewhat “on-point” with the standard two-hour runtime of most feature films. However, the movie feels much longer than it should be? How so? Well, there are a lot of scenes, with most consisting within the film’s first act, that feel quite elongated and a bit boring. Yes, I do get it that the script needed the necessary points to be “fleshed” for story / character purposes, but it could’ve been handled a little bit differently with more finessing the script (i.e. ironing out). Also, there are a few bits and pieces of Whannell’s script that need to be expanded upon, with the movie’s story / narrative having some of its character make bonehead moves (i.e. why doesn’t Cecilia know of Adrian sci-fi tech experiments with an invisible optical suit?). Plus, I felt that the final fifteen minutes or so was a bit “meh”. I do get what Whannell was trying to achieve with this movie and I do agree that it is poignant meaning for the film’s main character, but it just doesn’t have a certain “big impact” I think that the director wanted to achieve.

The cast in The Invisible Man is actually pretty good, which is quite out of the norm as most horror movies (nowadays) are relatively mediocre in their talents. Thus, this makes the film’s narrative a bit more gripping and enticing as we (the viewers) certainly do care more about the characters within the movie than other endeavors. Plus, majority of the acting talents involved on this project are definitely up to the task in bringing these characters to life. Leading the charge in the movie is actress Elizabeth Moss, who plays the central protagonist character of Cecilia Kass. Moss, known for her roles in Girl, Interrupted, Mad Men, and The Handmaid’s Tale, has certainly made a name of herself in acting career as a capable actress. Thus, Moss certainly carries the weight of The Invisible Man on her shoulder and she handles it exceptionally well; creating a stirring performance in Cecilia that’s both sympathetic female (trapped in an abusive relationship) as well as a strong character that knows how to handle herself. The acting range for such a character role also stems from Moss’s acting ability, which definitely shows throughout every scene that she is in. So, while the movie might struggle in several pieces, the decision to have Moss in the lead role isn’t one. In fact, she is definitely one of the strongest positive attributes that The Invisible Man has going for it.

In the antagonist role, the character of Adrian Griffin fills that role as the designated title figure of the “Invisible Man” in the feature, with actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen playing the role. Known for his roles in Faster, Going the Distance, and The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson-Cohen certainly fits the part of how Whannell wants to project Adrian has, a rather charm / good-looking individual that’s controlling, abusive, and manipulative person that torments Cecilia throughout the feature. However, while he’s set-up as the main threat in the movie, his screen is limited…. due to the nature of the whole “Invisible Man” aspect. Thus, for what its worth, Jackson-Cohen sells what he is given and it works. On the other end of the spectrum, actor Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures and Brian Banks) provides a warmth and comforting figure as James Lanier, a close friend to Cecilia that watches over her.

The only character that this was “meh” was in James Lainer’s daughter, Sydney, who is played by actress Stormy Reid (Euphoria and A Wrinkle in Time). While the character’s written journey is suitable and fine, Reid’s performance is still a bit wonky (much like her performance as Meg in A Wrinkle in Time). I just don’t think she can act and needs better roles under her belt. The rest of the cast, including actor Michael Dorman (Triangle and Daybreakers) as Adrian’s brother / lawyer, Tom Griffin, and actress Harriet Dyer (The InBetween and No Activity) as Cecilia’s sister, Emily Kass, make up the smaller supporting players in the movie that, while not heavily well-rounded, certainly get the job done within their limited screen-time and acting talents.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Free from her abusive partner, Cecilia’s freedom swiftly comes to a screeching halt and comes face-to-face with phantom nightmare in the movie The Invisible Man. Director Leigh Whannell’s third directorial film takes the classic horror monster villain and translates it for a modern audience; updating its material and presenting a tale that’s filled with thrills and scares along the way. While the movie does struggle in several areas (i.e. its predictable / formulaic nature and pacing problems), the film finds its stride in Whannell’s direction in bring the source material to modern times, genuine horror scares, an intriguing set-up, a better handled presentation, and some solid acting talents from the cast (most notably in Moss’s strong performance). Personally, I thought that this movie was pretty good. Yes, there were some things that I felt could’ve been “ironed out” / handled differently, but what is presented is still quite effective and quality made horror movie, which (in this day and age) is a rare sight indeed. Thus, my recommendation for this film is solid “recommended” one as it will surely please horror fans out there as well as even causal moviegoers out there. All in all, in a cinematic movie age of mostly mediocre to bad horror motion pictures that try for more commonplace “scare” tactics than ingenuity, The Invisible Man comes up on top; proving that their still some creative juice left in the barrage of middling horror features that are still left exploring.

4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)

 

Released On: February 28th, 2020
Reviewed On: March 8th, 2020

The Invisible Man  is 124 minutes long and is rated R for some strong bloody violence and language

5 comments

  • I enjoyed this tremendously. Moss’ performance was painful, thus a joy to watch. The various twists gave the ending many possibilities too.

  • I loved the majority of this film, but for me like you said, the ending was a bit disappointing. A shame, as th rest of the film was pretty great.

  • I agree with your review and also your thoughts on the trailer revealing too much. I only saw the trailer once (it played before another movie at the theater, before that I actually wasn’t aware of this film at all) and I kind of wish I hadn’t. It didn’t impact my viewing of the film, but I would have preferred to go in completely blind on this one.

  • I haven’t seen the 1933 film, but I did read H. G. Wells novel. From the sound of it, this remake has some notable improvements compared to the original story. Having the Invisible Man be an abusive stalker targeting his ex probably makes for a more subtle and suspenseful story than a guy who basically goes homicidal because he feels under-appreciated. A suit as the basis for the invisibility also avoids the awkward aspects of the original who turns his body transparent and ends up being tracked by his sniffles from catching cold. I don’t know if I’d be willing to commit the time to see this movie, but it’s nice to know they made a pretty good effort with it.

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