Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 4 minutes, Director – Leigh Whannell
After escaping an abusive relationship Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss), believes that her ex-boyfriend (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who has recently committed suicide, is somehow stalking and terrorising her in an invisible form.
The Invisible Man is a title commonly associated with the ghouls and grim reapers of 1930’s horror cinema, amongst other classic Universal monster horror titles. We’re used to seeing the figure with his face wrapped in bandages, with thick glasses in the middle and donning a suit or smoking jacket, alongside the standard gloves. However, in an age where horror is becoming more of a social commentary, taking elements of every day life and intensifying them for effect – look at the likes of Get Out, Unfriended and even Hereditary – The Invisible Man preys on the idea of fear of what we cannot see.
In the extended opening sequence we see Elisabeth Moss’ central character, Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss), attempt to silently escape from the lavish shore-side home of her boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The scene is filled with tension, her actions and behaviour suggest that she’s escaping an abusive relationship, her desperation and the fact that the house is flooded with CCTV adding to this. However, when she escapes there’s no relief, this is only the start, and we know it. Something is bound to go wrong, or rather get worse, and so the rest of the film is equally suspenseful.
As Cecelia is getting back on her feet, going out into the world after finding shelter in the house in the friend (Aldis Hodge) of her sister (Harriet Dyer), she finds out that her ex has committed suicide. However, after this news she finds herself being stalked and terrorised by an invisible force which she believes to somehow be her ex. Cecelia who after escaping from her life of isolation and domestic abuse already obsessed with a fear of being stalked and observed round any corner, or through any camera now fears that there’s something, or someone, watching her in every room. As attacks begin and her relationships with other people are tested Cecelia slowly begins to break down. The abuse she suffered when in a relationship restarts, both physically and mentally.
As her other relationships are viciously torn apart the horror of the film doesn’t lie in jump-scares – although there are a number of effective jump-scares throughout the film – but in the high levels of worry and unease that are in almost every scene. As Cecelia’s mental state begins to deteriorate the true extent of the horror is shown. This is not a film that examines a descent into madness; Cecelia is never mad, she’s desperate to end people perceiving her as mad. The audience knows that there is something following her, that’s made clear, it’s those that don’t believe her. And when mixed with Elisabeth Moss’ commanding central performance the nature of the film is often genuinely horrifying. How can you tell how good her performance is? When her hands shake with fear it looks real instead of forced, as is often the case.
Moss shows mass levels of fear that only increase as the titular monster seemingly lingers in every corner, despite not being present even the audience can somehow see it. Her screams and tears are far from the cliches of a number of female characters in horror films, especially in the likes of classic 1930’s Universal titles – after all we are now far from this age, and this is proof that the times have been changing for the better. This is a slightly unconventional character for this style of film, however the background and arc make for a unique and engaging piece. Bringing the viewer in with an interesting study on her behaviour and responses.
The idea of the fear of what we can’t see is effectively used and never feels gimmicky. Especially during moments of attack the impact of the film is often flinch inducing, even when nothing bad is happening. Thus creating the high levels of unease and worry that linger in every corner of every room – somehow making open spaces all the more tense.
Director Leigh Whannell shoots a number of action sequences from the possible perspective of the unseen attacker, however even this is sometimes doubted as he could be anywhere in the shot, or through CCTV cameras. By doing this the action and horror are escalated, Whannell having experience in both fields with his previous film Upgrade, and work on the Insidious franchise; of which he directed the third instalment. Combining both, often at the same time, he makes for an even more intense and almost edge-of-your-seat set of events. Overall the entire cast and crew manage to create something truly unique and suspenseful within The Invisible Man. Bringing a new style and edge to the modern trend of socially inspired horror films. Carrying tension, worry and pain throughout, led by a fantastic performance from Elisabeth Moss, this is truly something special, and not to mention fantastically tense and terrifying.
Elisabeth Moss dominates as the lead in this wonderfully unique, carefully crafted take on The Invisible Man. Something highly, and successfully, contemporary, this is a horror about the monsters of domestic abuse, a theme which is strongly held throughout and helps to add to the suspense and worry that the film so tensely holds.