Writer-Director Leigh Whannell is mostly known for his work in the horror world. Having written films like Saw and Insidious, collaborations with with fellow Aussie James Wan, it is not a stretch to see him attached to this film. What you may not know is that his previous film Upgrade was a masterclass in low budget thrills. Whannell brings that energy and passion to this film and it shows.
The Invisible Man is a story about oppression. Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia Kass, the wife to a deranged and sociopathic Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The film begins with a tense and nerve wracking scene following Cecilia as she tries to escape from her own house while trying to avoid the ever present threat of her abusive husband. There is nothing invisible yet, no ghostly floating knives, but the threat and the fear is palpable as she narrowly avoids being caught. The tone is set from the beginning that things are going to be tense.
Cecilia moves in with her good friend and police officer James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Cecilia can barely function or go outside, having been in such a controlling relationship, unsure of how to move on. Soon after she movies in she receives news that her husband has died and she will be getting a large sum of money. She is shocked but ready to move on, accepting the money and starting to smile again. After a few days of happiness she becomes convinced that Adrian has not died and that he is stalking her, an invisible force that is becoming progressively malevolent. There is so much tension building through the score and Moss’ acting that I found myself looking at every corner of the screen trying to catch the slightest glimpse something moving or out of place. The scenes where the she is being haunted by this invisible force are extremely intense and the most enjoyable aspects, they feel similar to Whannell’s earlier work in Insidious.
Much can be said of Moss’ ability to inhabit women in roles who are increasingly becoming more unstable. She has a physicality and control over her body and she is riveting to watch as she slowly unravels. The desperation she faces when no one believes what is happening to her is so disheartening, her feelings of hopelessness mirror plenty of those in her position, who are being gaslit by abusive men. Whannell also brings you into the story with superb direction and storytelling. His message of male dominance and the toxicity of unchecked masculinity are very much of the time. His use of camera work grabs viewers attention and takes them into the world from the viewpoint of the unsuspecting victim or sometimes through the gaze of the voyeuristic oppressor. The suspense and horror elements elevate this genre piece a little higher then its peers.
This is the complete package, strong acting, strong direction, and a compelling story. If you are able to take a few leaps in logic and somewhat thin characters, then sit back and enjoy the thrills.