A good horror film feels like a rare thing these days. While it’s not particularly scary, The Invisible Man is a claustrophobic, tense and thrilling film nonetheless, one that manages to breathe life into this genre whilst delivering one of the best mainstream films of the year in the process. From the swinging camera shots and suffocating long shots through to the great acting from Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man is a pleasant surprise and even more so given the film was completed on a budget of around $7 million.
The story wastes no time getting right to the heart of the drama and it does so in a very clever way. With a good dose of “show don’t tell”, the opening 10 minutes introduce us to Cecilia Kass, a woman stuck in a toxic, abusive relationship to a man named Adrian. Controlling everything in her life, right down to the clothes she wears and the words she speaks, Cecilia makes a bold decision to leave his secluded house in the middle of the night, evading security cameras, high fences and motion sensor lights in the process.
After this segment we skip forward 2 weeks to find a petrified Cecilia living in fear and struggling to regain her independence and confidence. When she learns Adrian has killed himself in her absence, what should be the start of a new dream life quickly descends into a nightmare as Cecilia realizes Adrian is now inexplicably invisible and watching her every move.
In essence, The Invisible Man plays out in two halves. The first sees the film fully embrace its horror roots, with some tense scenes and plenty of silent moments as Cecilia creeps through the house or stares off into the distance, knowing someone is watching her. The second half ditches the horror and instead focuses on the thriller aspects, bringing with it some nicely timed twists – some a little obvious and others not so much. All of this builds up to the climactic finale where secrets are revealed and our tale reaches a satisfying crescendo as Cecelia’s character grows and evolves as the film progresses.
A lot of credit is owed to Elisabeth Moss here though because without her convincing performance, the premise would almost certainly fall apart. Her facial expressions and ability to convey complicated feelings through a simple extreme close-up is partly the reason the idea is so believable and it’s something she’s equally as adept at in The Handmaid’s Tale too. She effortlessly brings an invisible presence to life and for a picture featuring many static shots of empty rooms, the film has a way of sneaking into your brain and keeping things suitably uneasy as you suspect our Invisible Man is watching every move made.
Ultimately though, The Invisible Man is a perfect example of how to spin an age old concept and turn it into a modern premise that actually works. Between the creative camera work, a smartly written script that layers on thin slices of exposition in a very organic way, and a genuinely tense atmosphere, The Invisible Man is one of the biggest surprises of the year so far and certainly one of the better horrors too. This is one of those must-watch films and given the rarity films like this are on the big screen, if you haven’t seen it already, The Invisible Man is worth a trip to the cinema.