What you can’t see can hurt is the tagline for the new version of H.G. Wells‘ immortal classic but in actuality, it’s what you can see, but no-one else can, that is the real devil in disguise. In the original book and the 1933 film that saw Claude Rains debut with terrifying consequences, it was all white bandages and dark glasses that was the central point of the invisibility but in Leigh Whannell’s updated chiller, it’s the man underneath, pre disappearing act that’s the real evil here.
Stripping away (mostly) the context and narrative of what we know, Whannell brings the story into the modern world with precision and thoughtfulness, utilising Wells’ tense prose and chilling ideas to brilliant effect in a 21st-century setting that allows him to explore the painful realities that many face every day in our technologically advanced yet discerningly detached way of life.
The last few years have seen movements towards change: equality, sexual offences and their consequences, as well as ghosting, gaslighting and wider mental health issues have all been, and continue to be, in the spotlight. Such things are horrifying and life-altering for those suffering in silence and The Invisible Man amplifies these at a time when we need to be more aware than ever that not all stories are as happy as they seem. Breathing new life into a classic tale, Whannell is able to tap into modern consciousness while still providing some genuine scares and some of the tensest sequences of the year.
Key to his success is Elisabeth Moss who is quite simply astounding as Cecilia, who we first meet silently escaping from a palatial beachside home whilst partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) sleeps. As events unfold, we discover she has been in a toxic, abusive relationship hence her reasons for leaving in such a manner. She seemingly gets closure as Adrian is pronounced dead but with his wealth and power, nothing could be so simple for Cecilia.
Whannell, fresh from his brilliant sci-fi thriller Upgrade that still not enough people have seen, brings his the same energy and sharpness here but it’s less chaotic, with a slower, more purposeful direction as if we were the invisible ones, lurking in the shadows. Shocks are earnt, the terror feels real and while it does feel a little flabby towards the third act, his ingenuity deserves all the plaudits alongside his leading lady.
If you’re expecting this to follow the rulebook so to speak then you may be disappointed but this is no The Mummy or any Dark Universe reboot, oh no. As with so many of the best remakes, The Invisible Man brings the concept forward in time to bring us not just a thrilling, tense horror-thriller but a timely reminder of the struggles we face from those forces we should see much better.
Horror, Thriller | USA, 2020 | 15 | 28th February 2020 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir Leigh Whanell | Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen