Written by: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman
Believing women has recently become a slogan for survivors in their experiences of assault and abuse. A phrase that must, unfortunately, be continually said because in most cases, they are not granted this basic belief after coming forward from the pain they have endured. The Invisible Man brilliantly takes this idea while infusing it with a classic horror monster, who very much still walks the earth today.
After finally escaping the clutches of her abusive husband, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) hears of his death. While trying to be comforted by her sister and friend, she still feels the reverberations of the abuse she endured. It only gets more complicated when she begins to feel her abuser’s presence physically as well.
Experiencing the fantastic quality of The Invisible Man felt like a treat after the recent deluge of poorly made films I watched preceding it. Watching this movie made me want to stand up and applaud because of the complexities of its plot and how it works on multiple levels. On one, it shows the journey of a woman trying to survive against this invisible force, and on the other we see a survivor trying to move forward with her life after far too much time in the clutches of a monster. The title of the feature plays with this duality in the way Cecilia’s abuser physically cannot be seen, and his abuse remains with her mentally and emotionally far after she believes him to be dead.
Taking the idea of this film from the original 1897 novel, which has been adapted several times, this iteration takes this old character, fully modernizes, and utilizes its horror characteristics for a contemporary story. The film does not get bogged down on the science of what makes the person invisible but rather gives the reason, moves forward, and we get set to enjoy this thrill ride.
Every detail of this film works through the story in a way where you feel for Cecilia, but it never falls into the exploitative trappings. Often, stories of this subject matter tend to want to make these instances of abuse incredibly real for the audience and show the grotesque acts, but The Invisible Man proves we can figure out the depths of the abuse and we do not have to display such terrifying imagery. Credit must go to Elisabeth Moss’s performance in the way she puts forth this trauma her character has endured. She utilizes her face in ways to show vulnerability and the way she delivers information about the actions done against her, it becomes bone-chilling. Everything in this performance solidifies the devastating circumstances she needed to endure. Moss truly delivers world-class performances each time she appears on the silver screen and this film proved to be no exception.
The overarching theme of believing women plays out in the way Cecilia feels the impact of this villain and no one believes her. Several times throughout the film, the invisible man puts her in terrible situations, which only makes the situation look bad for her. Several times I exclaimed out loud, “that doesn’t look good” in reference to the predicaments she would find herself in thanks to him. It truly goes through the playbook of abusers and the way they seek to control their victims. You might find yourself thinking why the invisible man would not just kill her with the bountiful opportunities he has, but finality is never the end goal. Control is what these monsters crave and the titular character becomes set on ruining everything possibly going well in Cecilia’s life in order for her to eventually come back to him. Truly devastating and it plays out deliberately and methodically in this incredibly well-made film.
Writer/director Leigh Whannel has proven to be a staple of the current horror landscape and he excelled in crafting such an uncomfortable and horrifying experience. He pushes against using jump scares and allows the unsettling mood to continually marinate. He uses the negative space in each room just stay static knowing very well the invisible man could be there. It allows for no moments of relaxation for Cecilia and us as the audience. Sure, at times this man who happens to be invisible appears to have superhuman strength, but being invisible proves to have jumped several slots in most useful powers one could have.
Watching The Invisible Man will prove to be an uncomfortable viewing as a horror film but also for anyone who has ever experienced abuse or has been gaslighted about an issue. It works so well especially in our current climate, but also as a reminder of the importance of believing survivors when they come forward. This film presents believing to be more difficult because Cecilia needs to convince people a man everyone knows is dead continues to mess with her and happens to be invisible. In the real world those circumstances do not exist and we should do infinitely better.