“The Invisible Man” is a film unconcerned with spoiling its own surprises. The name itself reveals a major plot point: the invisible man, Adrien, is alive and well despite claims of his own suicide and is using some kind of technology to make himself invisible in order to terrorize his girlfriend Cecilia. With the existence of the invisible man established early into the film, the audience follows Cecilia as she tries to show those around her that the invisible man is real.
“The Invisible Man” tells the story of Cecilia, played by Elizabeth Moss, and her quest to escape Adrien before he can force her to bear his child, thus keeping her stuck in the emotionally and physically violent relationship. The film opens to a beautiful nighttime shot of waves crashing harshly against a cluster of rocks. The shot pans up, revealing a house at the top of an island cliff, revealing just how separated this couple is from the rest of the world.
Cecilia’s attempt to sneak out of the secluded, heavily-secured house in the dead of night grips the audience in suspense. While Cecilia succeeds in leaving Adrien’s house, her escape is far from over. Soon after finding refuge at a friend’s house, Cecilia is told that Adrien has committed suicide, but she suspects that he is not truly gone.
Although the idea being stalked by an invisible man is terrifying on its own, Cecilia’s emotional isolation throughout the entire movie overrides this fear to turn “The Invisible Man” into a truly horrifying experience. Because she is being terrorized by a figure no one can see, every deed Adrien commits is pinned on her. Adrien’s brother Tom, upon hearing Cecilia say that she believes Adrien is invisible and trying to harm her, says: “Don’t let him win by bringing him back to life.”
This keeps the audience holding its breath, but it is hardly a new technique in horror. Films like “It Follows” and “Shutter” are just two examples of the many movies that take on the idea of an unseen villain terrorizing a protagonist that tries desperately to convince those around them that they are being followed to no avail.
What the film lacks in surprise, it more than makes up for in performance and cinematography. Director Leigh Whannell excels at establishing a sense of constant paranoia with eerily silent shots of Cecilia alone in a room, with slow pans to a dark hallway or shadowed corner, suggesting the presence of an unseen force.
Elizabeth Moss plays up this paranoia with her excellent performance as an abused woman fighting to free herself from a partner that has permeated every aspect of her life. It is no easy feat to play against a scene partner that is not there, yet Moss makes every moment believable.
“The Invisible Man” also caters well to fans of vintage horror. While the film diverges from H.G. Wells’s original novel, it pays homage to the source material. This is most evident in the invisible man himself, Adrien Griffin, who takes on the original protagonist’s first name as his surname. Adrien’s brother Tom adopts the name of the original Griffin’s assistant. Additionally, one can see imagery throughout the film that keys back to the original invisible man’s iconic bandaged and sunglass-clad look: a mannequin with sunglasses and a fedora in Sydney’s room, a burn victim in a hospital with her face wrapped in bandages.
All in all, “The Invisible Man” does not need to rely on jump scares or surprises to create horror and suspense. While some moments do seem reminiscent of films that came before, this is not a detriment to the overall quality of the story itself. If you are someone who likes a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat from performance and tension alone, then “The Invisible Man” is the movie for you.
Written by Ari Page. Page is a senior pursuing an English major with a minor in History.