Review: The Invisible Man

Title: The Invisible Man
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer
Runtime: 2 hrs 4 mins

What It Is: Cecilia (Moss) escapes the household of her rich and abusive ex Adrian (Jackson-Cohen)  with the help of her sister and stays within refuge with a family of policemen James and his daughter Sydney (Dyer). When Cecilia learns of Adrian’s death, she is still not convinced when she finds something apparently following her around.

What We Think: Blumhouse is BACK at it again with the domestic abuse horror, folks. Just an observation, not necessarily a criticism. Personally I love that a studio is able to have this much output: look up their Wikipedia page, good God that’s a lot of projects. Whannell (Insidious 3, Upgrade) offers us yet another look at the apparently timeless tale of the ‘Invisible Man,’ previously one of Universal’s famous monsters frequently remade within a large majority of the decades since its very first release as a story in 1897. Today, what else can this story be then something attempted to be made within reason, closer to being within the realm of possibility in order to deliver this narrative of extreme domestic abuse. And deliver it did, I would offer a big fat trigger warning for anyone interested or cautious about seeing this film, because this does have a lot of that kind of violence. It’s still fantastical: I mean, some invisible dude is running around somehow able to get away with carrying floating objects and other poltergeist-y shenanigans, but you catch my drift. For example, the very first scene is a very well done and intense show of how terrifying it is to leave an abusive, toxic person, especially one that’s basically bizarro Elon Musk (in my head I’ve penned him as Evil Elon).

To reiterate in that respect, there are many things about connecting this to real-life situations that Invisible Man got right, or was at least credible enough to defend in conversation though through its writing did its tells and flaws immediately give. Much like Upgrade, the originality in the plot and the dialogue was less believable and more character formula. It’s not really surprising these days anymore but is always at least a little disappointing. Despite that, I (a massively analytical asshole) was nonetheless able to still lean into the story and the characters’ dilemmas. You take the silliness and formula in stride at a certain point, I guess. Looking past them, the performances weren’t all that bad. Moss is great working with whatever material she does, not necessarily hitting any beats different than in any other story in which there are similar circumstances, but she does well. What else did we expect?

Visually it was fine, certainly not as big and fluid and slamming as the likes of something like Upgrade, but there were like two really good shots, as far as I remember. This isn’t the subtle kind of film, which is also fine because it doesn’t have to be. Still, I was looking around in the background for little clues or creepy background scares (one of my favorite kinds of scare tactics). It would have been cool if there were tiny little sinister things that the audience could discover overtime / on their own, things like that. If anything, I think this film could’ve gotten away with not pointing as much attention to the empty spaces like in Hereditary–just let the scares happen on their own to our own observation. That would definitely work in filmmakers’ favor as ambiguity is clearly a fear factor they’re going for in a handful of moments.

The score is extremely formulaic, hitting all the same notes as any other big-production “intense, dramatic” and “scary” movie score. Build-up, build-up, musical jump scares, and finally, at the end, it comes full circle. Heard it, seen it. Nowadays, if anything, it’s an unoriginal score that gets me down. If more films like this had more discernible scores (eg It Follows, Under the Skin, etc), that would make the film itself stand out more and more likely linger in one’s mind for better individual consideration. But, no, this score joins the pile of flat, predictable soundtracks.

Lastly, I would like to touch on the most damning (but also the best) thing about this movie: the contrivances. Oh, God. Once my suspension of belief was broken a few times I finally ended up just having fun thinking about how certain things about the physics fall short. Time seems to go by as it is convenient for the characters and the plot–someone can get undressed and dressed within a minute, wash house paint off of their body within under a minute, etc… There are a few other things I would love to (and did) point out, but I’d pretty much be spoiling the plot. But let me offer you this–at one point, it’s clear that the IM can be seen when in rain or covered in water, but only in one scene. If that was the case, why doesn’t light or dust also part around him? Why doesn’t he have a shadow? Why don’t particles stick to him, how does he stay clear all the time? Its obvious things can’t pass through him. How does he not track in dirt and mud all the time and create tracks or even shuffle that stuff around with his feet? When the shit hits the fan (because inevitably, it does), where’s all the blood going? Somehow he’s able to avoid all of it, blood splatters, dirty. This is somehow the cleanest freaking dude of all time and he doesn’t even have to try except when it comes to rain and house paint.

In the end, it’s all obviously besides the point to point out how something is physically impossible even though it is physically impossible (it’s just a movie, Chai, calm down…). But for some (aka me) it’s quite the treasure hunt to find things that don’t quite line up and make sense; things which are simply for the sake of getting that plot up and moving. And that’s fine like I said, it was actually kind of a good time, except for the part where Elizabeth Moss just leaves the dog behind for no reason. If you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean. Why would someone do that? Guard doggo just wants to help. Guard doggo is good at that.

Our Grade: C, People seemed to enjoy this movie. And yes, there were a few good, really redeeming things about it. It was effectively daunting to quite a few in the audience, and Moss’s character has a handful of watchable, cool moments. While this has a large number of similarities to Run Sweetheart Run (they’re honestly kind of the same movie) or even The Hole in the Ground (if you saw both movies you might know which scene I’m referring to), this read as more of a thriller drama than horror adventure (though you could probably get about as much out of any of these films). Many were infatuated with Moss’s journey, felt the way the film wanted them to feel, etc. It was a good tale about classism and abuse in manipulative relationships (again, much like RSR), but I dunno, this was a lighter experience for me. A lot of aspects were exaggerated, but for every five ridiculous or tired things that happened, there was one really interesting, credible, and/or cool thing. It wasn’t too bad and it definitely didn’t feel as long as its runtime. I can’t say you shouldn’t check this one out. Maybe you’ll enjoy it because I honestly kind of did. Much like the A Star is Born movies, I wouldn’t be mad if they just kept remaking this movie every thirty years or so. Won’t lie, I still want to see that “Dark Universe” Johnny Depp version.

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Chai Simone Written by: