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  Invisible Man, The Unseen And Insane
Year: 2020
Director: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Renee Lim, Brian Keegan, Nick Kici, Vivienne Greer, Nicholas Hope, Cleave Williams, Cardwell Lynch, Sam Smith, Zara Michales, Serag Mohamed
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) wakes in the middle of the night and creeps out of the bed she shares with her partner Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), collects what she needs in a bag, turns the bedroom security camera around to film Adrian, and tries to sneak out of the house. However, their pet dog awakens too and tries to go with her, but she cannot allow that and as she tries to comfort it, the pooch bumps a car in the garage, setting off its alarm. Now it is a race to get away as she scales the wall of their remote mansion and sprints through the woods to be picked up in the car of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) - but Adrian is hot on her heels and refuses to let her get away.

As anyone who has followed the fate of horror movies in the twenty-first century will tell you, Universal had been seeking something to do with their classic monster movie properties, you know, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and so forth. Alas, all their endeavours in that area had gone awry, culminating in the expensive flop The Mummy, a Tom Cruise-starring action flick rather than a horror, and it was clear they had to go back to the drawing board, especially when their The Creature from the Black Lagoon in all but name had secured a Best Picture Oscar when Guillermo Del Toro got his hands on it in a non-Universal production that must have felt like a slap in the face.

What to do? How about hand over the concept of The Invisible Man to Blumhouse, the closest thing the new millennium had to a Universal of the Golden Age - some said it was effectively the new Hammer, likewise sticking in the craw of actual Hammer who had rebooted themselves then fizzled out abruptly. Blumhouse responded as they always did with a cheaper budget but more imagination in how to use it thanks to the presence of Leigh Whannell, fresh of sleeper cult hit Upgrade, who concocted a new script that would stay true to the original H.G. Wells idea of an invisible maniac whose scientific genius belied a deeply unstable personality. But there was no world domination here.

No, it was a more personal domination the villain had in his twisted mind, taking the hot topic of gaslighting and making it his prime motivation, his thrills stemming from the power he could enjoy if his victim was essentially powerless. It's surprising how much abuse you can get away with if your target is made to believe they have either brought this on themselves, or have outright gone mad thanks to your machinations, and even better if you can persuade others to join in with the persecution, whether deliberately or because they don't know any better from what you have told them to influence their opinions. Obviously, if you are thinking of doing this, first, it's illegal, it's stalking for a start, and second, what the hell is wrong with you that you think behaving like a horror movie baddie is the way to act?

If that sounds like a facile analogy, there was a lot of truth behind what in its premise was a fantastical plot, for the year prior to The Invisible Man's release, reports of domestic violence against women, including murder by partners, had increased significantly: worth remembering if you were tempted to dismiss Whannell's revision as merely trying to cash in on a supposed man-hating trend. There would be a lot less to hate if people managed to control themselves and not resort to bullying and bloodshed to bolster their egos, and the title character here was about as despicable a controller of Cecilia's life as it was possible to be, yes, pretty cartoonish in his depiction, but somehow you could believe there were people in this world who went to these lengths, short of actually turning yourself invisible. Interestingly, after Cruise it was another high-profile Scientologist who Universal went to for the lead, here presumably someone with experience of being trapped in a straitjacket of domination by those who don't have their best interests at heart. Ominous music by Benjamin Wallfisch.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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