HG Well’s classic novel The Invisible Man has no real bearing on this film, which uses the concept and little else. Not that it matters. The Invisible Man has been riffed very effectively throughout cinema history, in everything from James Whale’s sort-of straight adaptation in 1933, to John Carpenter’s underrated 1992 thriller Memoirs of an Invisible Man, and Paul Verhoeven’s agreeably nasty 2000 offering Hollow Man. This latest take is an extremely effective one, adding topical themes of domestic abuse and gaslighting into the mix. If that makes you expect something worthy and dull, think again. The Invisible Man is a suspense-packed, old school, Hitchcockian horror thriller with guaranteed genre entertainment value, and a superb central performance from Elizabeth Moss.
Moss plays Cecilia, an architect who in act one, narrowly escapes from her violent and controlling tech company founder boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She is terrified he will find her, but then hears he has committed suicide. She also inherits five million dollars of her former boyfriend’s estate. Thinking she might be able to move on, Cecilia is encouraged by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), her policeman friend James (Aldis Hodge), and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid) to try and get a job, and take the steps required to rebuild her confidence, and her life in general. However, a series of disturbing incidents lead Cecilia to suspect her ex-boyfriend may not be as dead as everyone thinks. Worse, that he has found a way to make himself invisible, stalk her, and take revenge.
Writer/director Leigh Whannell milks maximum suspense from old-fashioned, creeping-around-dark-house type set pieces, building the paranoia and edge-of-the-seat thrills with aplomb. There are some genuinely frightening moments, and a couple of superbly timed jump-scares. Some of the final twists may be a bit predictable, but there’s enough panache and originality mixed in with the familiar to make the film feel vital and fresh. Performances are all strong (especially from Moss), and the whole thing is served on a delicious bed of Bernard Herrmann-esque strings, courtesy of composer Benjamin Wallfisch.
Of course, in the end it’s all very far-fetched, and certain lapses in logic are a bit difficult to swallow. But a spoonful of social commentary helps the ludicrousness to go down, after a fashion, with the afore-mentioned topical themes. The finale in particular at least has something to say, if not necessarily anything very profound, about the need for honesty in relationships. You won’t think about it much afterwards though, as this is a pulp thrill ride first and foremost, and all the better for it.
UK Certificate: 15
US Certificate: R
Content Warnings: Swearing, violence, scary scenes.