As much of the country and the world endure the isolation required to stave off the coronavirus pandemic, many films have been released early on VOD to help with the boredom. Perhaps the most anticipated of these is the latest adaptation of the H.G. Wells Sci-Fi classic The Invisible Man.
Theatrically released on Friday, February 28th, but then brought to VOD very early due the current world we are living in, the Leigh Whannell (Insidious: Chapter 3 2015, Upgrade 2018) directed Thriller keeps the bare bones of the original novel. With that it crafts a somewhat predictable but satisfying story of a woman’s struggle to escape the relentless pursuit of her abusive husband. We are introduced to married couple Cecilia “Cee” (Elizabeth Moss: The Handmaid’s Tale series, Us 2018 ) and Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen: The Raven 2012, The Healer 2016), asleep together for the final time, as Cee plans her escape in the middle of the night.
After drugging Adrian to sleep and barely managing to slip out of their sprawling, high-security complex with the help of her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer: Down Under 2016, Killing Ground 2016), Cee holds out with Emily’s ex-husband, James (Aldis Hodge: Straight Outta Compton 2015, Clemency 2019), and his teen daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid: A Wrinkle in Time 2018, Don’t Let Go 2019). Soon after, Cee receives news that Adrian has killed himself, and that she is entitled to a portion of his substantial wealth.
Of course, this is too good to be true. Adrian is alive and well, and none too happy about Cee leaving him. As in the original work, Griffin is a genius scientist who specializes in optics, and has created a light-bending suit that renders its wearer completely invisible. He dons this suit, which is unknown to everyone, including Cee, and proceeds to terrorize her in various ways until she is forced to fight back.
The movie is at its best during this middle section, showing Adrian’s clever deviousness and Cee trying to figure out how to stop him. The deck could not be more stacked against Cee: Adrian is smarter, stronger, richer, more clever, and has a mean streak that Cee cannot hope to match. The tension during these scenes is well executed and Cee’s fear is palpable. We get a quick glimpse of Adrian’s explosive anger in the opening scene, but here we see just how dangerous he can be. Whannell uses the idea of an invisibility suit to maximum effect; the scenes where Cee is scared out of her mind, knowing that Adrian is somewhere very close but undetectable, are excellent.
The performances are all strong, especially Moss, who rightfully gets the lion’s share of screen time. The supporting cast is limited in their roles in the story, but they’re all very effective in their parts. Particularly memorable is Adrian’s brother, Tom (Michael Dorman: Triangle 2009, Patriot 2018), played like a conniving salesman who knows that you know he’s peddling lies, but has just enough charm to make them seem plausible. Hodge is also likable as the story’s lawful good character; a caring friend, dutiful cop, and fierce protector of his family.
The Invisible Man holds together very well, mostly, but loses a bit of steam in the third act. After Cee finds out about the suit and the tables start to turn against Adrian, the rest feels a bit like a series of predictable final girl moments, but it doesn’t dampen things too much. Moss is great when transformed from an agoraphobic victim to a vengeful woman with nothing to lose. It’s her performance that lessens the negatives of the later part of the story.
Additionally, Adrian’s motivation seems a bit shallow for the lengths he goes to. After all, he is rich, handsome,and semi-famous. Why would he fake his own death and risk everything when he doesn’t have to risk anything? Cee didn’t take anything with her but the clothes on her back, so it’s not like he lost a whole lot. That said, he doesn’t get much screen time but the little he has is extremely effective. He is a truly frightening man, not just physically and mentally, but his laser-focused vindictiveness, coupled with knowing there is no level he will not go to in order to hurt Cee, is his most feared trait.
Overall, Whannell and the cast did a very solid job with this classic story. Despite a few relatively minor flaws, it is a tense Thriller that combines highly-engaging performances with a timely survival story during the Me Too movement. Horror has had a bit of a rough start in 2020, but this is the first must-see Horror of the year. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Invisible Man 4 out of 5 stars.