Every time Universal Pictures has stepped up to the plate to take a swing at reviving its classic Universal monsters, it’s been a miss. They tried it with “Dracula Untold.” They tried it with “The Mummy,” and now they’re doing it again with 2020’s “The Invisible Man.”
But whereas the previous two films sucked harder than a vampire drinking blood, “The Invisible Man” is a swing-and-a-hit for the studio and its partner, Blumhouse.
Although sharing the same title as the H.G. Wells book and its 1931 adaptation, this modern update eschews the mad scientist shenanigans of its source material in favor of telling a story about the effects of emotional abuse and psychological scarring. A woman named Cecilia flees the manipulative, abusive grasp of her boyfriend, Adrian Griffin, in search of a better life. Things seem well at first, but when strange occurrences start taking place, she has to figure out whether they are all in her head, or if some unseen force is toying with her.
Make no mistake, there is an invisible man. But whereas the one from the book and original film was all about causing mischief and mayhem, this one is about psychologically scarring and breaking its victim by any means necessary. When the reasoning behind Moss’s torment is revealed, however, it’s all the more shocking. Although “The Invisible Man” is light on bloodshed, when it does happen, it’s quick and sudden.
Writer and director Leigh Wannell gradually ramps the suspense with each scene, using stellar camera work and direction to give off the right amount of unease. The performances are also excellent, with Elisabeth Moss being the obvious stand-out, particularly in the early scenes where she first encounters her invisible assailant and has to mime being grabbed and hurt by the attacker. Moss’ character is a tortured soul, and, like the audience, she questions all the circumstances happening to her after she flees her controlling, abusive lover.
“The Invisible Man” is quite possibly the first great movie of the year and shows that you don’t need a gazillion dollars or a major movie star to make a reboot seem hip and cool. What you need is someone capable of delivering a quality product, as Wannell did here.
The scariest things are that which we can’t see, and “The Invisible Man” homes in on such fears to craft an eerie, tense, but nonetheless entertaining movie.