It wasn’t all that long ago that Universal was seriously attempting to develop a Dark Universe for their classic monsters. Things changed after the releases of Dracula Untold and The Mummy after their poor box office showings, but having seen those two films, I feel fans were spared in the long run from a disaster that could have been. Then in 2019 word got out that Blumhouse was going to be doing The Invisible Man, and this somewhat reignited the talks of a Dark Universe project. When I first heard Blumhouse was backing the film, I was cautiously optimistic about the project; where the company does have its hits like Happy Death Day and Get Out, there are plenty of duds as well. It’s when Leigh Whannell got attached and I had some hope for the film. For those unfamiliar with the name, Whannell is the writer responsible for the Saw franchise as well as the Insidious franchise. Now the wait is over and the film has been seen; how does it turn out?
The film opens up with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) attempting to escape from her home while her husband is asleep. This opening sets the tone masterfully, and as much as I hate the phrase “will leave you on the edge of your seat”, that is simply what this sequence does. So much is revealed in the visuals of the home and the performance that Moss delivers that the audience can appreciate that characters need for escape. If anything it’s in these opening moments of the film as Cecilia is wandering through the home that almost too much is revealed towards the story that will follow.
After her escape, the film picks up two weeks later. Cecilia is in hiding from her husband. It’s this portion of the film that is unexpected and becomes engaging as we’re watching this woman attempting to reacclimate herself to the world as she continues to live in fear of her husband. How this is shown as well as talked about in the film not only helps develop the character, but in the process is setting up for when things go sideways for Cecilia. The few relationships that Cecilia has are with her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) as well as James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid). The interactions with these characters are so well grounded that we can believe these relationships are more than just filler for the film; they are genuinely layers that surround Cecilia and help her feel safe once again. After hearing Cecilia’s husband has killed himself, we can almost believe she’ll get her well-deserved happily ever after, but this is a horror movie, and we all know better.
The first 2/3 of the film is riddled with tension and delivers an Invisible Man film unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s a refreshing take on the character that we haven’t seen before, and I do love how the focus of the film is on Cecilia. When we are introduced to the Invisible Man elements, it’s done in such a way that we’re left wondering if it’s supernatural, something physical, or could it possibly be all in her head? Just knowing how the film could go in so many directions and avoiding the “mad scientist experiment gone wrong” trope allows the film to become its own story and continue to feel fresh.
As for that final 1/3 of the film, well, that’s when the mayhem comes in and the film earns its R rating. IMDB has the budget for the film at $7 million, a budget that is remarkable considering how the film looks as though it cost at least five times that amount. It’s the low-tech approach to the film that I loved the most, and what makes the story believable and in turn makes it that much more terrifying.
Though it’s only February, it looks like The Invisible Man is the first great horror film of the year, but there are plenty more that are coming up in the following months. I want to revisit the film again before I consider labeling this a modern classic. I do want to see how it holds up after multiple viewings, but one thing I’m certain of is that I had a lot of fun with this one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this breaks $100 million. Get out there and check this film out; this is definitely a must-see film, especially for horror fans.