One of the beauties of the horror genre is its canny ability to reinvent itself, time and time again.

Sure, the genre is awash with sequels, retreads and reboots that do nothing more than slavishly follow a ‘paint-by-numbers’ approach to moviemaking, with the savvy audience often able to call the action before it plays out on screen.

But horror also continues to surprise – and a classic case is Leigh Whannell’s glorious, super-tense The Invisible Man.

Flipping the focus away from the ‘radical scientist and his crazy experiments’ angle of previous incarnations and instead focusing on the victim rather than the ‘villain’, Whannell’s opus is a superb update, hoovering up a host of current issues (domestic violence, clandestine technology etc) and spitting them out in a two-hour flick that fairly rattles by.

Elizabeth Moss is the central point here, playing a woman who, due to issues of abuse and control, feels she (understandably) has no option but to do a runner, sneaking away from her overbearing partner in the middle of the night in a tense opening scene.

Cecilia (Moss) shacks up with a friend (who just happens to be a cop) and also ropes her sister into the plan – but it is made very clear that Cecilia is damaged (psychologically and physically) by her relationship and is going to need an awful lot of TLC to put her past behind her.

All that changes though when her ex, wealthy optics expert Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) turns up dead, having supposedly killed himself over her leaving.

With money now at her disposal (via her ex’s estate) Cecilia begins to re-immerse herself in society, but slowly things seem amiss – doors opening that she definitely closed, her folder of work to show at a job interview mysteriously empty when she knows she packed the designs etc.

And, as outlandish a thought it may be, it dawns on Cecilia – is Adrian really dead? Or has he somehow perfected his technology to become (guess what) ‘the invisible man’?

Naturally the title of the film sort of makes that obvious, but one of the strengths of the film is that Whannell mines the ‘Me Too’ movement for all its worth, casting Moss as a woman who is very much not believed, instead painted as at best paranoid, at worst mentally unhinged.

The other huge plus point is Whannell’s trickery behind the camera – the simple concept allows every corridor, every doorway and practically every location to become sinister (exacerbated by a corking soundtrack). As a character points out early in proceedings, there does not have to be anything there for you to be frightened – you just have to know the possibility that there IS something there.

Moss is obviously pivotal to all this – the film lives or dies on her performance – and her oh-so believable turn as a woman struggling to be believed as he world caves in on her, elevates what could so easily be hokey material to the next level.

There is solid support from the likes of Aldis Hodge as cop pal James, Michael Dorman as Adrian’s lawyer brother and Harriet Dyer as Cecilia’s sister – in fact there is not a duff performance to be seen.

I do have a couple of niggles – I’m still scratching my head over a couple of character motivation moments, while a couple of the ‘the invisible man did it’ antics stretch believability to absolute breaking point.

But they a minor quibbles – The Invisible Man being a masterclass in tension which pushes Whannell (deservedly) to the front of the queue when it comes to modern genre masters.

Movie Review: The Invisible Man
4.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle