I haven’t necessarily done my research on this, but if I were to guess what film genre has the most remakes, it’s probably horror. It feels like every year we get a horror remake, whether it be a classic from the 30’s or 40’s or something newer from the 80’s or 90’s. Just over the last couple years we have seen remakes of It, Child’s Play, and Black Christmas, among others. It is a genre that has continuous remakes, yet only few of them we truly remember. Seriously, does anyone remember the Flatlinersremake starring Ellen Page and Diego Luna from a couple years ago? I didn’t think so.
There have been nineteen films that have been based on or inspired by H.G. Wells’ novel, The Invisible Man. That’s right, twenty. I was just as surprised to read that as you probably are, but it’s true. However, of the nineteen Invisible Manfilms, most probably only know of the original 1933 classic and of 2000’s bizarre, Paul Verhoeven film Hallow Man. But between the other seventeen films, whether sequels, remakes, re-imaginings, or T.V. movies, none of them have really stood out and might as well not exist.
Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man is the twentieth version of The Invisible Man and it is a perfect example of how to make a proper remake and will be an Invisible Man film you won’t forget. This is a tense, scary, unsettling, stylish, smartly written film with a stellar Elisabeth Moss performance and shocking social commentary.
From the opening scene you know you are in for something special. In what could have been its own short film worthy of an Oscar, Whannell gives us some of the most intense cinema I have seen in a long time. We see Cecilia (Moss) sleeping in her bed next to her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Cecilia slowly removes Adrian’s arm from around her and gets out of bed. We soon realize that she is trying to escape. Cecilia quietly moves around the house executing her escape the house and get away from her husband. Moss is astonishing in this scene. Without seeing Cecilia and Adrian interact, we know that this woman is afraid of her husband and that this escape is her only chance. Moss brilliantly portrays Cecilia’s fear and focus. She has planned this escape step-by-step, yet she knows failure to escape will have dire consequences. There is the old adage you learn in film school of, “show, don’t tell” and Whannell has done that perfectly. With no dialog at all, Whannell gives us everything we need to know about this couple. They live a lavish life, have a stunning house overlooking the ocean, and Adrian is some sort of tech-wiz who works in their basement. Yet emotionally, everything is dark, cold and empty. It’s a masterful scene of direction, acting, writing, and tone.
The intensity of the opening scene carries throughout the rest of the movie. I was never settled while watching The Invisible Man, especially when our titular character begins to terrorize Cecilia. The idea of an invisible man is a horrifying one and one that creeps me out just thinking about it. What if someone was stalking you and you had no idea? What if you couldn’t see your biggest fear? These ideas constantly circle The Invisible Man and will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
The Invisible Man is far more than just your typical horror movie. The film looks at abuse, trauma, and the power of rich white men and how they abuse their power. Since the man is invisible and the only one who knows about this is Cecilia, everyone just assumes it is the trauma from her abusive relationship. This is a movie that looks at the belief of the abused while also being a revenge film about overcoming your fears and fighting back. With so many of these kind of stories coming into the light now, this is a culturally relevant movie that elevates The Invisible Man to horror excellence.
Though there is a lot to love in The Invisible Man, it just misses perfection. The film does run about twenty minutes too long and loses some steam towards the end of the second act. There are also a decent amount of logic holes in the film in regards to actions that happen and character motivations. There are ways to either trap or see an invisible man, like utilizing sheets in a number of places, or placing flour all over the ground to see footprints, or loading up on fire extinguishers and spraying it whenever he could possibly be around. Yet our characters, who seem genuinely intelligent, only do these things a couple times rather than stop and think about how they can best see this invisible man. These might be small and petty, but they bothered me ever so slightly.
The Invisible Man is one of the best horror remakes in recent years. It is as smart as it is scary and features an outstanding performance by Elisabeth Moss, who essentially acts against nothing for most of the movie and makes it look convincing with ease. Whannell’s direction is slick and stylish, yet never too flashy. He has a great balance of tone and knows exactly when to drop in a fun jump-scare and how to layer in the real horrors of the movie. The Invisible Man shows that even after twenty iterations of the same material, you can still make something fresh and new while also keeping the sprit of the original.
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