Although this is only his third directed film, Leigh Whannell is quickly establishing himself as a recognizable face in the industry. The man behind the sleeper hit Upgrade starts this film with a similar aesthetic with crashing waves and sleek living spaces that informs us who is behind the camera. Perhaps in a few years, like Hitchcock and Kubrick, we’ll know Whannell’s tone before the opening credits. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still amazing to see how far the writer of Saw has come. The Invisible Man has intelligence and scares to spare.
Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) makes a daring escape from her abuser Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the middle of the night, and for the next few weeks, she struggles with the trauma in the home of a friend and cop James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She receives news that Adrian is dead and that her life can get back to normal. Easier said than done. But sadly, things aren’t that simple as things go bump in the night and Cecilia feels like Adrian is still around.
That the scares were achieved with such a low budget is impressive as Whannell uses silence just as well as the blaringly effective score by Benjamin Wallifisch. There are moments meant to make us jump and grab the armrest. The opening scene harkens back to old thrillers like Sleeping With The Enemy and shows that a horror film doesn’t have to begin with tragedy but rather, a hope that the girl will win.
The thrills and chills are done to great effect, but the film doesn’t stop there. Moss plays the part with energy and resilience, quickly realizing that things aren’t as they seem instead of taking half a movie to figure it out. Everyone wants to think it’s just the trauma and this provides a horror movie with a rare but important social commentary. Trauma doesn’t simply go away, even without the abuser possibly returning from the grave. Could it all be in Cecilia’s head? Is there some other force at play? That’s up to the viewer to experience, but the impact of having one’s life controlled is felt throughout the movie and gives us a heroine to root for.
Although it’s not officially part of the movie, the trailers leading up to The Invisible Man release revealed many scenes that we should’ve been experiencing for the first time in the theater. I realize oversharing is normal in advertising these days, but if I can find one flaw, it’s not with the movie itself, but with how the viewer is spoiled before experiencing the first great horror film of the year. That being said, it’s still worth seeing on the big screen.