The breathless opening sequence of “The Invisible Man” is a near-flawless 10 minutes of suspenseful setup. As our protagonist, Elizabeth Moss’ Cecilia, sneaks out of bed in the middle of the night and attempts to escape her opulent seaside home and — as we soon learn — her emotionally abusive husband, writer-director Leigh Whannell wastes no opportunity to dismantle the viewer’s nerves. The bass-heavy pounding of nearby waves imbues an otherwise serene atmosphere with an unshakeable ferment, and if there’s anything the camera lingers on more than Moss, it’s the surplus of eerily empty space around her … as if there’s something there, some noiseless specter down the hall or in the corner, eyeing Cecilia’s every move.
There isn’t. Not yet, at least. Two weeks later, a traumatized and paranoid Cecilia is taking refuge at a friend’s home when the news arrives: Her husband, Adrian, has died by his own hand. The initial shock gives way to enormous relief — for the first time since her escape, Cecilia is able to leave her safe house without trembling with fear, her pride reaching a crescendo when she performs the simple task of bringing in the mail. Adrian’s cruel grip on her has finally loosened — until she starts seeing him again
Except she isn’t. The floorboards start to creak under no apparent weight, and Cecelia wakes up to find her bedcovers are inexplicably piled on the other side of the room. She tries to pick them up again, but they won’t budge, as if some unseen hand is clenched tightly around them. Her attempts to explain these phenomena, of course, fall on deaf ears. Yet as the days roll on Cecilia’s interactions with this sightless visitor become more severe, more intimate, more threatening. Is it in her head? Has her mental health finally imploded? Or has Adrian managed to do what Cecilia always feared he would: found a way to truly subdue her, even from beyond the grave?
Whannell’s loose modernization of H.G. Wells’ classic titular creature is the rare reboot done right, successfully re-contextualizing a century-old property to fit the paranoias of the #MeToo era. His screenplay uses the concept of an invisible stalker to entrap our heroine in a web of mistrust and manipulation, ably capturing the skepticism and isolation that abuse victims so often face. Moss, deftly teetering between self-assurance and questionable sanity, is perfectly cast as Cecilia, seemingly effortless in her ability to sometimes wordlessly earn the viewer’s empathy. Yet it’s also through her layered performance that “The Invisible Man” lends itself to an intentionally murky morality, its extremely gruesome final scene raising questions of what victim empowerment truly looks like.
It’s also genuinely terrifying and exciting as a standalone piece of horror entertainment. Wide angles and long takes, combined with a rattling electronic score by Benjamin Wallfisch, transform otherwise benign empty spaces that surround Cecilia into dread-filled enemy territory. And in a riveting one-shot action sequence, Whannell’s athletic camerawork overpowers and immerses the viewer in a state of true helplessness. Had the film not become distracted from its themes for the sake of an extra plot twist or two, it could have attained a tightness to which all horror should aspire — perhaps even perfection.
An adept psychological thriller, horror film and (maybe) ghost story, “The Invisible Man” is a hauntingly claustrophobic and often breathtaking piece of cinema. The next filmmaker looking to retrofit an established movie monster for the modern age would do well to take a page from Whannell’s book — he has truly put the “imagination” in “re-imagination.”
Premium VOD Dominates FandangoNOW Top 10, Led by ‘The Invisible Man’
Full-price rentals dominate eight slots on the FandangoNOW top 10, including “Onward,” “Bloodshot,” and “Birds of Prey.”
The public is watching current movies in large (but uncertain) numbers at home. But a key question is how they are performing in terms of relative revenue draw even as we (unlike box office grosses) we don’t get exact figures. Fandango just released their weekly chart of the last seven days, and it is filled with interesting information supplementing our reports on iTunes, Amazon Prime, and Spectrum charts that only list by number of transactions without distinction among the diverse pricing they have.
Here is the Fandango top 10, which like traditional box office ranking is based on revenue (though actual amount not reported)