Remember Universal’s Dark Universe? Remember how it was supposed to take classic Universal monster movies and adapt them into a modern cinematic universe featuring major celebrities like Tom Cruise, Javier Bardem, and Russell Crowe just to name a few? Remember how it failed miserably and is now a punchline? Well Dark Universe lives again… kind of.
Sure, it may no longer have the name of a big cinematic universe and may not feature an interconnected team of monsters, but a remake of a classic horror movie is still a remake, interconnectivity or not. Out of all of Universal’s classic monsters, their Invisible Man is actually one of the few monster movies I haven’t seen. I’m aware of the premise and plot through cultural osmosis and its status as one of their more compelling features, but that’s about it. It’s on my bucket list of movies to watch, but I’m almost certain it won’t be like this 2020 remake by Blumhouse. For starters, I’ll actually care about that movie and find it worth dissecting and analyzing!
The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Wannell
Release Date: February 28, 2020
As a remake of the original 1933 movie in concept only, our story centers on Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss), who escapes from a very abusive relationship with her brilliant scientist boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). While we never see the events of their relationship, it’s enough to traumatize Elizabeth to the point where she is in constant fear of him finding her. Her paranoia only lasts up until she finds out that he committed suicide, so she proceeds to reintegrate herself back into society. However, she starts to believe that Adrian didn’t really kill himself and he somehow found a way to turn invisible and is using that power to make her life a living hell.
Now credit where credit is due, the movie does a pretty good job at playing up the paranoia that Cecilia feels. Not a scene goes by where Moss, who is by far the best thing about this movie, doesn’t give it her all and showing how fundamentally broken her character is. The Invisible Man is a horror movie about gaslighting and the psychological trauma that can inflict on a person, which was a good route to go, especially tying it into a villain who may always be at your side but you have no way of confirming it.
I also got a kick out of a few creepy moments thanks to Adrian’s presence. Whether it was having an uncomfortably long shot where we see a pan go from a mild heat to a high burn or watching Elisabeth stand outside with her breath being visible only to see a puff of air behind her, there were moments where an invisible person does seem to be legitimately terrifying. Unfortunately, those are only moments. While the concept itself is solid, the overall execution feels more like a ghost movie. We have a threat that no one can see except for one person, no one believes them, all the while the invisible person/ghost is making life a living hell for them.
It’s a concept that we’ve seen done before. Plenty of time before actually. So many times that The Invisible Man feels more safe than truly terrifying. In those first couple of scenes, the tension that Elisabeth felt towards nearly everything was palpable and gave me the hope that this would be a movie almost akin to A Quiet Place, only for sight. In that movie, even the slightest sound was enough to make a person turn white as a ghost, but I thought that maybe The Invisible Man would be able to do that for visuals. It happened once or twice as previously stated, but never enough for it to truly make an impact on me.
It’s all very been there, done that. The movie slowly lurches towards a conclusion and while there were some shocking moments where Adrian was able to use his invisibility to really mess with Elisabeth, it takes almost a bit too long for things to really heat up. Even then, his motivation seems to be all over the place with the revelation for why he’s torturing her like this seems forced and makes you think that there could have been a more logical way to get these results than to develop a million dollar invisibility suit, fake his own death, find his ex, stalk her, and make everyone think she’s crazy.
In fact, several logical leaps of faith had to be made just to get the characters where they needed to be. I’m no stranger to the fact that horror movies features a cavalcade of morons, but people in The Invisible Man seems to make poor decisions and judgment call because if they didn’t then we wouldn’t have a movie. While dumb characters are excusable in a slasher film where the point is for these idiots to die glorious deaths, The Invisible Man is a psychological thriller. It’s entirely reliant on making sure that it’s main character is tortured enough and distances herself from her support network in order to fall victim to Adrian and his machinations. While some characters are pushed to the side for logical reasons, others seem to mistrust Elizabeth because of events that we’re not privy too. She has a falling out with her sister over something that happened between them, but we never know what it was and the movie conveniently forgets to ever bring it up again after it happens.
When the movie just drops all attempts at horror and turns into an action movie, that’s when I had the most fun with it. Sure, the characters didn’t stop being idiots, especially the comical amount of people sent in to stop Adrian’s invisibility suit, but at least I was watching something interesting happening on screen. Easily the highlight of the movie is the final scene, which honestly could have worked infinitely better on its own. It’s just such a nice final scene that sums up all of the movie’s themes wonderfully and tells its own chilling little story. We should have gotten more of that than a dirge of a movie that feels more predictable than scary.
There were moments that worked in The Invisible Man, but a few good moments does not a good movie make. It requires a bit more cohesion, a tighter script, smarter characters, and most importantly, more than a few good scares. Even then I wouldn’t call them scares rather than creepy moments. As is the case with nearly all of Blumhouse’s output, it’s good enough, but nothing really worth going out and seeing immediately. Maybe if you’ve got nothing better to do this could be a decent watch, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to completely forget about this movie in a few days.