Leigh Whannell has successfully revived The Invisible Man with a fresh, innovative spin on the 123 year-old tale that captures the tense spine-tingling chills and edge-of-seat thrills that make up a stellar modern horror thriller.
The story follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) who, after her abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, suspects she’s being hunted by an invisible figure as a series of unexplained coincidences begin to threaten the lives of those she cares about the most. Writer/director Leigh Whannell has hit a home run here with this creative reimagining of the classic horror tale that incorporates a strong story, spectacular scares and tense thrills throughout the entire film. The plot itself feels very fresh, it does delve into some familiar horror/thriller territory but, for the most part, I found the story to be entertaining and creative as it held a number of surprises I didn’t expect.
One thing I love is how Whannell crafts a story that begins as a straight-up horror and gradually introduces thriller-esque elements to transform it into more of a horror/thriller. He does so without ever losing the tense horror tone that is at the core of the film. At a couple of moments I was worried it was going to go down a more action-thriller path, but Whannell very cleverly wraps the story around to bring the horror back into it and keep you hooked right through to the final moments.
At two hours long, the film adopts a very calculated pace that flows effortlessly into each act. The opening act introduces us to all the characters and main players with plenty of clever foreshadowing. The second act is where things really pick up and you get your seemingly endless dose of horror, while the story still drops tonnes of hints at what may or may not be happening. Then the final act pays off everything that came before it with a tonne of thrills, a small dose of action and a tense climax. It’s overall a very cleverly written film from beginning to end.
As one of the fathers of the Saw franchise, Leigh Whannell has his finger on the pulse of what makes a solid modern horror film, filling The Invisible Man with a blend of atmospheric and modern scares. Having a villain on the screen who you can’t see makes for a number of genuinely intense scenes and builds up a sense of fear from before anything significant even happens. The looming presence that could be anywhere is a great horror mechanic, albeit one that has been used before, but it plays really well here due to how it is shot within the confines of a house. Whannell adopts a lot of long sweeping shots, lingering shots and slow pans to give you the impression that something is right in front of your or that something might happen. His panning shots are some of the most effectively used in the film, they’re very reminiscent of the panning shots that were introduced in the third Paranormal Activity film and are used fantastically here.
For the most part, the score that accompanies all of the tense horror and thriller moments is incredible. It sucks you into the film even more and makes a number of scenes more ominous than they already seem. But, where I loved the score, it also plays into one of my criticisms. There are a handful of moments in the film, maybe 3 or so where the score swells up drastically, to the point of being way too loud and pulling you out of the film as oppose to sucking you in. Granted, this is done in moments of intense stress where characters are under great duress, but it’s way too extreme and should have been pulled back a little so that it’s not too distracting from the scene itself. Other than that, I have nothing but praises.
When it comes to the performances, Elisabeth Moss acts her heart out. She is fantastic across every scene and really sells you on the fact that this woman is terrified that she’s being hunted by an invisible figure. There are a number of key moments in this film where I had to stop and be like ‘wow, she’s stellar’. As far as horror heroines go, Moss makes this character one of the most compelling to appear in recent years. She has a number of great moments alongside Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid, a father and daughter who are housing Cecilia for the duration of the film. The emotional connection set up between these three characters early in the film is done very well as it gets you caring about more than just the main character.
In the end, The Invisible Man comes out swinging and kicks off 2020’s run of top-notch horror films in fine fashion. Leigh Whannell’s expertly written story paves the way for a suspenseful mystery with a tonne of scares spread throughout the entire film. It’s clever in its storytelling, foreshadowing and how it keeps you guessing right through to the final moments. Fans of the horror genre will get a really good kick out of this and should check it out while it’s in theatres.